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E S S A 




By THOMAS R E I D, D. D. F. R. S. E. 


Who hath put wifdom in the inward parts ? Job. 


Printed for JOHN BELL, Parliament Sqtjare, 
And G. G. J. & J. ROBINSON, London. 








In the Univerfity of Edinburgh^ 

My dear Friends^^ 

1KNOW not to whom I Can addrefs thefe Eflays 
with more propriety than to You ; not only on ac- 
count of a friendfhip begun in early life on your part, 
though in old age on mine, and in one of you I may 
fay hereditary ; nor yet on account of that correfpon- 
dence in our literary purfuits and amufements, which 
has always given me fo great pleafure ; but becaufe, if 
thefe Eflays have any merit, you have a confiderable 
fliare in it, having not only encouraged me to hope that 

a 2 they 


they may be iifeful, but favoured me with your obfer- 
vations on every part of them, both before they were 
fent to the Prefs and while they were under it. 

I have availed myfelf of your obfervations, fo as to 
corred: many faults that might other wife have efcaped 
me ; and I have a very grateful fenfe of your friendfliip, 
in giving this aid to one, who ftood much in need of it ; 
having no fhame, but much pleafure, in being inftrudted 
by thofe who formerly were my pupils, as one of you 

It would be ingratitude to a man wliofe memory I 
moft highly refpecl, not to mention my obligations to 
the late Lord Kames for the concern he was pleafed to 
take in this Work. Having feen a fmall part of it, he 
urged me to carry it on ; took account of my progrefs 
from time to time ; revifed it more than once, as far as 
it was carried, before his death j and gave me his obfer- 
vations on it,' both with refped to the matter and the 
exprefTion. On fome points we differed in opinion, and 
debated them keenly, both in converfation and by ma- 
ny letters, without any abatement of his affection, or of 
his zeal for the Work's being carried on and publifhed : 
For, he had too much liberality of mind not to allow to 


D E D I a\hJTX J ON. V 

others the fame liberty in judging which he claimed to 

It is difficult to fay whether that worthy man was 
more eminent in adive life or in fpeculation. Very rare, 
furely, have been the inftances where the talents for 
both were united in fo eminent a degree. 

His genius and induftry, in many different branches 
of literature, will, by his works, be known to pofterity ; 
His private virtues, and public fpirit,his aiUduity, through 
a long and laborious life, in many honourable public of- 
fices with which he was entrufted, and his zeal to en- 
courage and promote every thing that tended to the im- 
provement of his country in laws, literature, commerce, 
manufadures and agriculture, are heft known to his 
friends and cotemporaries. 

The favourable opinion which He, and You my Friends, 
were pleafed to' exprefs of this Work, has been my chief 
encouragement to lay it before the Public; and perhaps, 
without that encouragement, it had never feen the light : 
For I have always found, that, without fecial intercourfe, 
even a favourite fpeculation languifhes ; and that we 
caiuiot help thinking the better of our own opinions 




when they are approved by thofc whom we efteem good 

You know that the fubftance of thefe Eflays was de- 
livered annually, for more than twenty years, in Lectures 
to a large body of the more advanced fludents in thi& 
Univerfity, and for feveral years before, in another Uni- 
verfity. Thofe who heard me with attention, of whom 
I prefume there are fome hundreds alive, will recognife 
the dodrine which they heard, fome of them thirty^ 
years ago, delivered to them more diffufely, and with 
the repetitions and illuftrations proper for fuch audi- 

I am afraid, indeed, that the more intelligent reader^ 
who is converfant in fuch abftraft fubjedls, may think 
that there are repetitions ftill left, which might be fpared. 
Such, I hope, will confider, that what to one reader is 
a fuperfluous repetition, to the greater part, lefs conver- 
fant in fuch fubjeds, may be very tifeful. If this apo- ^ 
logy be deemed infufficient, and be thought to be the 
dictate of lazinefs, I claim fome indulgence even for 
that lazinefs, at my period of life. 




You who are in the prime of life, with the vigour 
which it infpires, will, I hope, make more happy ad- 
vances in this or in any other branch of fcience to 
which your talents may be applied. 

Glasgow-College, 7 
June I. 1785, ^ 





PREFACE, - - . . I 


Chap. i. Explication of words ^ - - _ g 

2. Principles taken for grantedy - ~ ^6 

3. Of hypothefeSy - _ - 46 

4. Of analogy y - . _ j2 

5- Of the proper means of knowing the operations of the 

mindy - _ _ _ ry 

— — 6. Of the difficulty of attending to the operations of our 

own minds y - - - 61 

7. Divifon of the powers of the mindy - 67 

8. Of facial operations of mind, - - 72^ 


Chap.^,, \j,^ Of the organs of fcnfcy - - 75. 

2. Of the impreffions on the organs y nerves y and brainy 79 

3. Hypothefes concerning the nerves and brainy - 82 

■ 4. Falfe conclifions drawn from the impreffions before men- 

tionedy _ _ _ g^. 

5. Of perceptiony - - ' - 105 

6. What it is to account for a phenomenon in NaturCy 112 

7. Sentiments of Phihfophers about the perception of exter- 

nal objeEls ; andyfirfly Of the theory of Father Male- 

BRANCHE, _ _ - 115 

■ 8. Of the common theory of perception yond of the fentiments 

of the Peripatetic Sy and of Des Ca^tes^ 125 

b Chap.. 


Chap. 9. Of thefent'anents of Mrl^ocvi'S.^ 

0. Of the fetithnents of Bifiop Berkeley, 

1. Bifhop V>Y.^YiY.\.v.\\ fentiments of the nature of ideas^ 

2. Of the fentiments of Mr HuME, 

3. Of the fentiments of Antony Arnauld, 

4. Refledlions on the common theory of ideas^ 

5. Account of thefyjlem of Leibnitz, 

6. Of fenfatlon^ _ _ - 

7. Of the objeSls of perception ; andy firfl. Of primary 
and fecondary qualities , - - 235 

8. Of other obje^s of perception, - - 248 

9. Of matter and f pace, - - 257 

20. Of the evidence of fenfe, and of belief in general, 267 

21. Of the improvemei\t of the fenfes , - - 278 
2 2. Of the fallacy of the fenfes, - - 288 





Chap. 1. 'things obvious and certain laith regard to memory, 303 

— — 2. Memory an original faculty, - - 306 

3. Of duration, - - - - 310 

4. Of identity, - - - - 315 

— — 5. Mr Locke's account of the origin of our ideas, and 

partictdarly of the idea of duration, - 322 

' 6. Of Mr hocYL?.''?, account of our perfonal identity, 332 

7. Theories concerning memory. 



Chap. i. Of conception, or fimple apprehenfton in general, 357 

2. Theories concerning conception, - - 378 

• 3. Mi/lakes concerning conception, - - 395 

4. Of the train of thought in the mind, - - 405 





Chap. i. Of general ivords^ - - - - 431 

"^ — ^* Of general conceptions f - - - 438 

r-*-^^ — 3. Of general conceptions formed by analyfihg objeSISy 445 

-* 4. Of general conceptions formed by combination^ - 45 j 

> 5. Obfervations concerning the names given to our general 

notions^ - - - - 471 

6. Opinions of Philofopbers about univerfals^ - 475 


Chap. I. Of judgment in general^ _ - - 4^7 

2. Of common fenfe^ -' - - - ^ig 

3. Sentiments of Philofopbers concerning judgment y ^'}^l 

4. Of jirjt principles in general^ - _ _ ^^^ 

— — 5. T'he firji principles of contingent truths ^ - - 575 

6. Firjl principles of neceffary truths y - - 605 

7. Opinions ancient and modern about fff principles, 632 

8. O/' prejudices, the caufes of error, - - 65 1 


Chap. i. Of reafoning in general, and of demonf ration, - 671 

■ 2. Whether morality be capable of demonjlration, - 678 

3. Of probable reafoning, _ . _ ggp 

4. OfMr'HiswE'^fcepticifm'withregardtoreafon, 697 




Chap. i. Of tajle in general^ - - - 713 

2. Of the ohjeEis of tajle^ andfrjl of novelty ^ - 72 1 

3- Of grandeur, . - _ 72^5 

4. Of beauty, - _ . . 737 



HUMAN knowledge may be reduced to two general heads, 
according as it relates to body, or to mind j to things mia- 
terial, or to things intelledual. 

The whole fyftem of bodies in the Univerfe, of which we 
know but a very fmall part, may be called the Material World j 
the whole fyftem of minds, from the infinite Creator to the 
meaneft creature endowed with thought, may be called the In- 
telledlual World. Thefe are the two great kingdoms of nature 
that fall within our notice ; and about the one, or the other, or 
things pertaining to them, every art, every fcience, and every 
human thought is employed ; nor can the boldeft flight of ima- 
gination carry us beyond their limits. 

Many things^there are indeed regarding the nature and the 
ftrudlure both of body and of mind, which our faculties cannot 
reach; many difBculties which the ableft Philofopher cannot 
refolve ; but of other natures, if any other there be, we have no 
knowledge, no conception at all. 

That every thing that exifts muft be either corporeal or in- 
corporeal, is evident. But it is not fo evident, that every thing 

A that 


that exifts muft either be corporeal, or endowed with thought. 
Whether there be in the Univerfe, beings, which are neither ex- 
tended, folid and inert, like body, nor adlive and intelligent, 
like mind, feems to be beyond the reach of our knowledge. 
There appears to be a vaft interval between body and mind, and 
whether there be any intermediate nature that conne(fls them 
together, we know not. 

We have no reafon to afcribe intelligence, or even fenfation, 
to plants ; yet there appears in them an adlive force and energy, 
which cannot be the refult of any arrangement or combination 
of inert matter. The fame thing may be faid of thofe powers 
by which animals are nouriflied and grow, by which matter 
gravitates, by which magnetical and eledlrical bodies attra6t and 
repel each other, and by which the parts of folid bodies cohere. 

Some have conjedlured that the phaenomcna of the material 
world which require a(5live force, are produced by the continual 
operation of intelligent beings : Others have conje<flured, that 
there may be in the Univerfe, beings that are adlive without in- 
telligence, which, as a kind of incorporeal machinery, contrived 
by the fupreme Wifdom, perform their deflined tafk without 
any knowledge or intention. But, laying afide conjedlure, and 
all pretences to determine in things beyond our reach, we muft 
reft in this, that body and mind are the .only kinds of being of 
which we can have any knowledge, or can form any conception* 
If there are other kinds, they are not difcoverable by the facul- 
ties which God hath given us ; and, with regard to us, are a& 
if they were not. 



As therefore all our knowledge is confined to body and mind, 
or things belonging to them, there are two great branches of 
philofophy, one relating to body, the other to mind. The pro- 
perties of body, and the laws that obtain in the material fyftem, 
are the objecSls of natural philofophy, as that word is now ufed. 
The branch which treats of the nature and operations of minds 
has by fome been called Pneumatology. And to the one or the 
other of thefe branches, the principles of all the fciences belong. 

What variety there may be - of minds or thinking beings 
throughout this vaft Univerfe, we cannot pretend to fay. We 
dwell in a little corner of God's dominion, disjoined from the 
reft of it. The globe which we inhabit is but one of feven planets 
that encircle our fun. What various orders of beings may in- 
habit the other fix, their fecondaries, and the comets belonging 
to our fyftem; and how many other funs may be encircied 
with like fyftems, are things altogether hid from us. Although 
human reafon and induftry have difcovered with great accuracy 
tlie order and diftances of the planets, and the laws of their 
motion, we have no means of correfponding with them. That 
they may be the habitation of animated beings is very probable ; 
but of the nature, or powers of their inhabitants, we are per- 
fedly ignorant. Every man is confcious of a thinking principle 
or mind in himfelf, and we have fufficient evidence of a like 
principle in other men. The ac5lions of brute animals fhow that 
diey have fome thinking principle, though of a nature far in- 
ferior to the human mind. And every thing about us may con-^ 
vince us of the exiftence of a fupreme mind, the Maker and 
Governor of the Univerfe. Thefe are all the minds of which 
reafon can give us any certain knowledge. 

A 2 The 


The mind of man is the nobleft work of God which reafbn 
difcovers to us, and therefore, on account of its dignity, deferves 
our ftudy. It muft indeed be acknowledged, that although it 
is of all objedls the neareft to us, and feems the mod within our 
reach, it is very difficult to attend to its operations fo as to form 
a diftinft notion of them ; and on that account there is no 
branch of knowledge in which the ingenious and fpeculative 
have fallen into fo great errors, and even abfurdities. Thefe 
errors and abfurdities have given rife to a general prejudice 
againft all enquiries of this nature. Becaufe ingenious men 
have, for many ages, given different and contradidlory accounts 
of the powers of the mind, it is concluded, that all fpeculations 
concerning them are chimerical and vifionary. 

But whatever effecfl this prejudice may have with fuperficial 
thinkers, the judicious will not be apt to be carried away with 
it. About two hundred years ago, the opinions of men in na- 
tural philofophy were as various, and as contradi(5lory, as they 
are now concerning the powers of the mind. Galileo, Tor- 
RiCELLi, Kepler, Bacon, and Newton, had the fame dif- 
couragement in their attempts to throw light upon the material 
fyftem, as we have with regard to the intelledual. If they had 
been deterred by fuch prejudices, we fhould never have reaped 
the benefit of their difcoveries, which do honour to human 
nature, and will make their names immortal. The motto which 
Lord Bacon prefixed to fome of his writings was worthy of 
his genius, Invcinam viam atitfac'iam. 

There is a natural order in the progrefs of the fciences, and 
good reafons may be affigned why the philofophy of body Ihoul^l 



be elder Jijler to that of mind, and of a quicker growth ; but the 
laft hath the principle of life no lefs than the firft, and will grow 
up, though flowly, to maturity. The remains of ancient phi- 
lofophy upon this fubjecfl, are venerable ruins, carrying the marks 
of genius and induflry, fufficient to inflame, but not to fatisfy, our 
curiofity. In later ages, Des Cartes was the firft that pointed 
out the road we ou^ht to take in thofe dark regions. Ma- 


SON, Butler, Hume, Price, Lord Kames, have laboured to 
make difcoveries ; nor have they laboured in vain. For, however 
different and contrary their conclufions are, however fceptical 
fome of them, they have all given new light, and cleared the 
way to thofe who fliall come after them. 

We ought never to defpair of human genius, but rather to 
hope, that, in time, it may produce a fyftem of the powers and 
operations of the human mind, no lefs certain than thofe of op- 
'tics or aftronomy. 

This is the more devoutly to be "vvifhed, that a diftind know- 
ledge of the powers of the mind would undoubtedly give great 
light to many other branches of fcience. Mr Hume hath juftly 
obferved, that " all the fciences have a relation to human na- 
" ture ; and, however wide any of them may feem to run from 
" it, they ftill return back by one paflage or another. This i» 
" the centre and capital of the fciences, which being once ma- 
" fters of, we may eafily extend our conquefts every where." 

The faculties of our minds are the tools and engines we muft 
ufe in every difquifition ; and the better we underftand their 



nature and force, the more fuccefsfully we ftiall be able to apply 
them. Mr Locke gives this account of the occafion of his en- 
tering upon his EfTay concerning human underftancling : " Five 
" or fix friends (fays he) meeting at my chamber, and difcourfing 
" on a fubjedl very "remote from this, found themfelves quickly 
" at a ftand, by the difficulties that rofe on every fide. After 
" we had for a while puzzled ourfelves, without coming any 
" nearer to a refolution of thofe doubts that perplexed us, it 
" came into my thoughts that we took a wrong courfe ; and 
" that, before we fet ourfelves upon enquiries of that nature, 
" it was necefiTary to examine our own abilities, and fee what 
" objeds our underftandings were fitted or not fitted to deal 
" with. This I propofed to the company, who all readily afi^ent- 
" ed ; and thereupon it was agreed that this fhould be our firft 
" Enquiry." If this be commonly the caufe of perplexity in 
thofe difquifitions which have leaft relation to the mind, it muft 
be fo much more in thofe that have an immediate conrie<5lion 
with it. 

The fciences may be diflingulfhed into two clafTes, according 
as they pertain to the material or to the intellecftual world. The 
various parts of Natural Philofophy, the mechanical Arts, Che- 
miftry. Medicine, and Agriculture, belong to the firft ; but, to 
the laft, belong Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, Natural Theology ; 
Morals, Jurifprudence, Law, Politics, and the fine Arts. The 
knowledge of the human mind is the root from which thefe 
grow, and draw their nourilliment. Whether therefore we con- 
fider the dignity of this fubjecSl, or its fubferviency to fcience in 
general, and to the nobleft branches of fcience in particular, it 
highly deferves to be cultivated. 



A very elegant writer, on thtfublime and beautiful^ concludes his 
account of the paflions thus : " The variety of the paflions is 
" great, and worthy, in every branch of that variety, of the 
" moft diligent inveftigation. The more accurately we fearch 
*' into the human mind, the (Ironger traces we every where 
*' find of his wifdom w^ho made it. If a difcourfe on the 
" ufe of the parts of the body may be confidered as a hymn to 
" the Creator ; the ufe of the paflions, which are the organs of 
" the mind, cannot be barren of praife to him, nor unproduc- 
*' tive to ourfelves of that noble and uncommon union of fci- 
" ence and admiration, which a contemplation of the works of 
" infinite Wifdom alone can afford to a rational mind ; whilfl re- 
" ferring to him whatever we find of right, or good, or fair, in 
" ourfelves, difcovering his ftrength and wifdom even in our 
" own weaknefs and imperfedion, honouring them where we 
" difcover them clearly, and adoring their profundity where we 
" are lofl in our fearch, we may be inquifitive without imperti- 
" nence, and elevated without pride; we may be admitted, if I 
" may dare to fay fo, into the counfels of the Almighty, by a 
" confideration of his works. This elevation of the mind ought 
" to be the principal end of all our fludies, which, if they do 
" not in fome meafure effed, they are of very little fervice 
■** to us." 


E S S A Y S 

O N T H E 


E S S A Y L 



Explication of Words. 

THERE is no greater impediment to the advancement of 
knowledge than the ambiguity of words. To this chiefly it 
is owing that we find feds and parties in mofl branches of fcience ; 
and difputes, which are carried on from age to age, without 
being brought to an ifTue. 

Sophiftry has been more efFedlually excluded from mathematics 
and natural philofophy than from other fciences. In mathematics 
it had no place from the beginning : Mathematicians having had 
the wifdom to define accurately the terms they ufe, and to lay down, 
as axioms, the firft principles on which their reafoning is grounded. 
Accordingly we find no parties among mathematicians, and hardly 
any difputes. 

B In 



CHAP. I. In natural philofophy, there was no lefs fophiftry, no lefs dlfpute 
and uncertainty, than in other fciences, until about a century and 
a half ago, this fcience began to be built upon the foundation of 
clear definitions and felf-evident axioms. Since that time, the fcience, 
as if watered with the dew of Heaven, hath grown apace; difputes 
have ceafed, truth hath prevailed, and the fcience hath received 
greater increafe in two centuries than in two thoufand years before. 

It were to be wifhed, that this method, which hath been fo fuccefs- 
ful in thofe branches of fcience, were attempted in others : For defini- 
tions and axioms are the foundations of all fcrence. But thatdefinitions 
may not be fought, where no definition can be given, nor logical defi- 
nitions be attempted, where thefubjedl does not admit of them, it may 
be proper to lay down fome general principles concerning definition, 
for the fake of thofe who are le£s converfant in this branch of logic. 

When one undertakes to explain any art or fcience, he will have 
occafion to u£e many words that are common to all who ufe the fame 
language, and fome that are peculiar to that art or fcience. Words 
of the lad kind are called terms of the art, and ought to be diftlntflly 
explained, that their meaning may be underflood. 

A definition is nothing elfe but an explication of the meaning of 
a word, by words whofe meaning is already known. Hence it is 
evident, that every word cannot be defined ; for the definition mufl 
confifl of words ; and there could be no definition, if there weie 
not words previoufly iinderftood without definition. Common 
words, therefore, ought to be ufed in their common acceptation ; 
and, when they have different acceptations in common language, 
thefe, when it is neceffary, ought to be diftlnguifl-ied. But they re- 
quire no definition. It is fufiicient to define words that are un- 
common, or that are ufed in an uncommon meaning. 

It may farther be obferved, that there are many words, which, 
though they may need explication, cannot be logically defined. A 



logical definition, that is, a flrid and proper definition, muft ex- CHAP. I. 
prels the kind of the thing defined, and the fpecific difference, by 
which the fpecies defined, is diftinguiflied from every other fpecies 
belonging to that kind. It is natural to the mind of man to clafs 
things under various kinds, and again to fubdivide every kind into 
its various fpecies. A fpecies may often be fubdivided into fubor- 
dinate fpecies, and then it is confidered as a kind. 

From what has been faid of logical definition, it is evident, that 
no word can be logically defined which does not denote a fpecies ; 
becaufe fuch things only can have a fpecific difference; and a fpe- 
cific difference is effential to a logical definition. On this account 
there can be no logical definition of individual things, fuch as 
London or Paris. Individuals are diflinguifhed either by proper 
names, or by accidental circumftances of time or place ; but they 
have no fpecific difference ; and therefore, though they may be 
known by proper names, or may be defcribed by circumftances or 
relations, they cannot be defined. It is no lefs evident, that the 
xnoft general words cannot be logically defined, becaufe there is 
not a more general term, of which they are a fpecies. 

Nay, we cannot define every fpecies of things, becaufe it happen* 
fometimes that we have not words to exprefs the fpecific difference. 
Thus a fcarlet colour is, no doubt, a fpecies of colour ; but how 
fhall we exprefs the fpecific difference by which fcarlet is diftin- 
guiflied from green or blue ? The difference of them is immediate- 
ly perceived by the eye ; but we have not words to exprefs it. 
Thefe things we are taught by logic. 

Without having recourfe to the principles of logic, we may ea- 
fily be fatisfied that words cannot be defined, which fignify things 
perfedlly fimple, and void of all compofition. This obfervation, 
I think, was firft made by Des Cartes, and afterwards more 
fully illuftrated by Locke. And however obvious it appears to be, 
many inftances may be given of great philofophers who have per- 

B 2 plexed 



CHAP. I. plexed and darkened the fubjeds they have treated, by not know- 
ing, or not attending to it. 

When men attempt to define things which cannot be defined, 
their definitions will always be either obfcure or falfe. It was one 
of the capital defers of Aristotle's philofophy, that he pretended 
to define the fimplefl things, which neither can be, nor need to be 
defined ; fuch as time and motion. Among modern philofophers, 
I know none that has abufed definition fo much as Carolus 
WoLFius, the famous German philofopher, who, in a work on 
the human mind, called Pfychologia Empirica^ confifting of many 
hundred propofitions, fortified by demonftrations, with a propor- 
tional accompanyment of definitions, corollaries, and ftholia, has 
given fo many definitions of things, which cannot be defined, and 
fo many demonftrations of things felf-evident, that the greateft 
part of the work confifls of tautology, and ringing changes upon 

There is no fubje(5l in which there is more frequent occafion to 
ufe words that cannot be logically defined, than in treating of the 
powers and operations of the mind. The fimplefl operations of our 
minds muft all be exprefled by words of this kind. No man can 
explain by a logical definition what it is to think, to apprehend, 
to believe, to will, to defire. Every man who underftands the 
language has fome notion of the meaning of thofe words ; and 
every man, who is capable of reflexion, may, by attending to 
the operations of his own mind, which are fignified by them, form 
a clear and diftin(5l notion of them ; but they cannot be logically 

Since therefore it is often impoffible to define words which we 
muft ufe on this, fubjed:, we muft as much as poflible ufe com- 
mon words, in their common acceptation, pointing out their va- 
rious fenfes where they are ambiguous ; and when we are obli- 
ged to ufe words lefs common, we muft endeavour to explain them 



as well as we can, without afFedlng to give logical definitions, CHAP. i. 
when the nature of the thing does not allow it. 

The following obfervations on the meaning of certain words 
are intended to fupply, as far as we can, the want of definitions, 
by preventing ambiguity or obfcurity in the ufe of them. 

1. By the mind of a man, we underfland that in him which 
thinks, remembers, reafons, wills. The effence both of body and 
of mind is unknown to us. We know certain properties of the 
firfl, and certain operations of the lafl, and by thefe only we can 
define or defcribe them. We define body to be that which is 
extended, folid, moveable, divifible. In like manner, we define 
mind to be that which thinks. We are confcious that we think, 
and that we have a variety of thoughts of diflerent kinds ; fuch 
as feeing, hearing, remembering, deliberating, refolving, loving, 
hating, and many other kinds of thought, all which we are taught 
by nature to attribute to one internal principle ; and this principle 
of thought we call the mind or foul of a man. 

2. By the operations of the mind, we underfland every mode of 
thinking of which we are confcious. 

It deferves our notice, that the various modes of thinking have 
always, and in all languages, as far as we know, been called by the 
name of Operations of the mind, or by names of the fame im- 
port. To body we afcribe various properties, but not operations, 
properly fo called ; it is extended, divifible, moveable, inert ; it 
continues in any ftate in which it is put ; every change of its Hate 
is the eflTeifl of fome force impreffed upon it, and is exacflly pro- 
portional to the force impreffed, and in the precife direction of 
that force. Thefe are the general properties of matter, and thefe 
are not operations ; on the contrary, they all imply its being a dead 
inaflive thing, which moves only as it is moved, and adls only 
by being a£led upon. 



But the mind is from its very nature a living and aclive being. 
Every thing we know of it implies life and aclive energy; and the 
reafon why all its modes of thinking are called its operations, is, that 
in all, or in moft of them, it is not merely paflive as body is, 
but is really and properly active. 

In all ages, and in all languages, ancient and modem, the va- 
rious modes of thinking have been expreffed by words of adlive 
fignification, fuch as feeing, hearing, reafoning, willing, and the 
like. It feems therefore to be the natural judgment of mankind, 
that the mind is a(5live in its various ways of thinking ; and for 
this reafon they are called its operations, and are exprelTed by 
aclive verbs. 

It may be made a queflion. What regard is to be paid to this 
natural judgment ? may it not be a vulgar error ? Philofophcrs 
who think fo, have, no doubt, a right to be heard. But until it 
is proved that the mind is not a6live in thinking, but merely paf- 
live, the common language with regard to its operations ought 
to be ufed, and ought not to give place to a phrafeology invented 
by Philofophcrs, which implies its being merely paflive. 

3. The words power and faculty^ which are often ufed in fpeak- 
ing of the mind, need little explication. Every operation fuppofes 
a power in the being that operates ; for to fuppofe any thing to 
operate, which has no power to operate, is manifeftly abfurd. 
But, on the other hand, there is no abfurdity in fuppofing a 
being to have power to operate, when it does not operate. Thus 
I may have power to walk, when I fit ; or to fpeak, when I am 
filcnt. Every operation therefore implies power ; but the power 
does not imply the operation. 

The faculties of the mind, and its powers, are often ufed as fyno- 
nimous expreflions. But as moft fynonimes have fome minute 
diftinclion that deferves notice, I apprehend that the word fa- 



cuUy is mofl properly applied to thofe powers of the mind which are chap, r. 

original and natural, and which make a part of the conftitution 

of the mind. There are other powers wdiich are acquired by 

ufe, exercile or fludy, which are not called faculties, but habits. 

There mufl be fomething in the conftitution of the mind necef- 

fary to our being able to acquire habits, and this is commonly 

called capacity. 

4. We frequently meet with a difl;in(5lion in writers upon this - 
fubjedl, between things in the mind, and things external to the 
mind. The powers, faculties, and operations of the mind, are 
things in the mind. Every thing is faid to be in the mind, of 
which the mind is the fuhje&. It is felf-evident, that there are 
fome things which cannot exift without a fubjedl to which they 
belong, and of which they are attributes. Thus colour mull be 
in fomething coloured; figure in fomething figured; thought 
can only be in fomething that thinks ; wifdom and virtue can- 
not exift but in fome being that is wife and virtuous. When 
therefore we fpeak of things in the mind, we underfland by this, 
things of v/hich the mind is the fubje(5l. Excepting the mind 
itfelf, and things in the mind, all other things are faid to be ex- 
ternal. It ought therefore to be remembered, that this diftinclion 
between things in tlie mind, and things external, is not meant to 
fignify the place of the things we fpeak of, but their fubjed. 

There is a figurative fenfe in which things are faid to be in 
the mind, which it is fufEcient barely to mention. We fay fuch 
a thing was not in my mind, meaning no more than that I had 
not the leaft thought of it. By a figure, we put the thing for the 
thought of it. In this fenfe external things, are in the mind as 
often as they are the objeds of our thought. 

5. 'Thinkitig is a very general word, which includes all the ope- 
rations of our minds, and is fo well underftood as to need no defi- 


i6 E S S A Y I. 

CHAP. I. To perceive^ to remember^ to be cotifctous, and to conceive or imu' 
gifie, are words common to Philofophers, and to the vulgar. They 
fignify different operations of the mind, which are diftinguifhed 
in all languages, and by all men that think. I fliall endeavour to ufe 
them in their moil common and proper acceptation, and I think 
they are hardly capable of ftrid definition. But as fome Philofo- 
phers, in treating of the mind, have taken the liberty to ufe them 
very improperly, fo as to corrupt the Englifli language, and to con- 
found things, which the common underftanding of mankind hath 
always led them to diftinguifh, I fliall make fome obfervations 
on the meaning of them, that may prevent ambiguity or confufion 
in the ufe of them. 

6. jF/Vy?, We are never faid to perceive things, of the exiftence of 
which we have not a fullconvidlion. 1 may conceive or imagine a. moun- 
tain of gold, or a winged horfe ; but no man fays that he perceives 
fuch a creature of imagination. Thus perception is diftinguiflied 
from conception or imagination. Secondly, Perception is applied only 
to external objedls, not to thofe that are in the mind itfelf. "When 
I am pained, I do not fay that I perceive pain, but that I feel it, or 
that I am confcious of it. Thus perception is diftinguiflaed from 
confcioufnefs. Thirdly, The immediate objedt of perception muft be 
fomething prefent, and not what is paft. We may remember 
what is paft, but do not perceive it. I may fay, I perceive fuch 
a perfon has had the fmall-pox ; but this phrafe is figurative, al- 
though the figure is fo familiar that it is not obferved. The 
meaning of it is, that I perceive the pits in his face, which are cer- 
tain figns of his having had the fmall-pox. We fay we perceive 
the thing fignified, when we only perceive the fign. But when the 
word perception is ufed properly, and without any figure, it is never 
applied to things paft. And thus it is diftinguiflied from remem- 

In a word, perception is moft properly applied to the evidence 
which we have of external objeds by our fenfes. But as this is a 



very clear and cogent kind of evidence, the word is often applied by C H A. P. 1. 
analogy to the evidence of reafon or of teftimony, when it is clear 
and cogent. The perception of external objects by our fenfes, is 
an operation of the mind of a peculiar nature, and ought to have 
a name appropriated to it. It has fo in all languages. And, in 
Englifh, I know no word more proper to exprefs this adl of the 
mind than perception. Seeing, hearing, fmelling, tafting, and 
touching or feeling, are words that exprefs the operations proper to 
each fenfe ; perceiving exprefles that which is common to them all. 

The obfervations made on this word would have been unnecefTa- 
ry, if it had not been fo much abufed in philofophical writings 
upon the mind ; for, in other writings, it has no obfcurity. Al- 
though this abufe is not chargeable on Mr Hume only, yet I think 
he has carried it to the highefl: pitch. The firft fentence of his 
Treatife of human nature runs thus : " All the perceptions of the 
" human mind refolve themfelves into two diflindl heads, which 
" I (hall call imprefllons and ideas." He adds a little after, that, 
under the name of impreflions, he comprehends all our fenfations, 
pafFions, and emotions. Here we learn, that our paffions and emo- 
tions are perceptions. I believe, no Englifh writer before him ever 
gave the name of a perception to any paffion or emotion. When 
a man is angry, we muft fay that he has the perception of anger. 
When he is in love, that he has the perception of love. He fpeaks 
often of the perceptions of memory, and of the perceptions of ima- 
gination ; and he might as well fpeak of the hearing of fight, or 
of the fmelling of touch ; For, furely, hearing is not more diffe- 
rent from fight, or fmelling from touch, than perceiving is from 
remembering or imagining. 

7. Confc'ioufnefs is a word ufed by Philofophers, to fignify that 
immediate knowledge which we have of our prefent thoughts and 
purpofes, and, in general, of all the prefent operations of our 
minds. Whence we may obferve, that confcioufnefs is only of 
things prefent. To apply confcioufnefs to things pafl, which fome- 

C ' times 

iS E S S A Y I. 

CHAP. L times is done in popular cllfcourfe, is to confound confcioufnefs 
with memory ; and all fuch confufion of words ought to be avoid- 
ed in philofophical difcourfe. It is likewife to be obferved, that 
confcioufnefs is only of things in the mind, and not of external 
things. It is improper to fay I am eonfcious of the table which 
is before me. I perceive it, I fee it, but do not f«*^ I am eonfci- 
ous of it. As that confcioufnefs by which we have a ^knowledge of 
the operations of our own minds, is a different power from that by 
which we perceive external objedls, andasthefe different powers have 
different names in our language, and, I believe, in all languages, 
a Philofopher ought carefully to preferve this di{lin<5lioh, and never 
to confound things fo different in their nature. 

8. Conceiving, imagining, and apprehending, are commonly ufed 
as fynonymous in our language, and fignify the ^me thing which 
the Logicians call fimple apprehenfion. This is an operation of 
the mind different from all thofe we have mentioned. Whatever 
we perceive, whatever we remember, whatever we are eonfcious 
of, we have a full perfuafion or convidlion of its exiflence. But 
we may conceive or imagine what has no exiftence, and what we 
firmly believe to have no exiftence. What never had an exiftence 
cannot be remembered ; what has no exiftence at prefent cannot be 
the objedl of perception or of confcioufnefs ; but what never had, 
nor has any exiftence, may be conceived. Every man knows that 
it is as eafy to conceive a winged horfe or a centaur, as it is to 
conceive a horfe or a man. Let it be obferved therefore, that to 
conceive, to imagine, to apprehend, when taken in the proper fenfe, 
fignify an adl of the mind which implies no belief or judgment at 
all. It is an adl of the mind by which nothing is affirmed or de- 
nied, and which therefore can neither be true nor falfe. 

But there is another and a very different meaning of thofe words, 
fo common and fo well authorifed in language, that it cannot eafily 
be avoided ; and on that account we ought to be the more on our 
guard, that wc be not miflcd by the ambiguity. Politenefs and 



good-breeding lead men, on moft occafions, to exprefs their opinions c H A f. i- 
with modefty, efpecially when they differ from others whom they 
ought to refpedt. Therefore, when we would exprefs our opinion 
modeftly, inftead of faying, " This is my opinion," or, " this is 
*' my judgment," which has the air of dogmatlcalnefs, we fay, " I 
" conceive it to be thus, 1 Imagine or apprehend it to be thus;" which 
is underflood as a modeft declaration of our judgment. In like 
manner, when any thing is faid which we take to be impoflible, 
we fay, " We cannot conceive it," meaning, that we cannot be- 
lieve it. 

Thus we fee that the words conceive^ imagine, apprehend^ have two 
meanings, and are ufed to exprefs two operations of the mind, 
which ought never to be confounded. Sometimes they exprefs 
fimple apprehenfion, which implies no judgment at all ; fometimes 
they exprefs judgment or opinion. This ambiguity ought to be 
attended to, that we may not impofe upon ourfelves or others in 
the ufe of th^m. The ambiguity is indeed remedied in a great 
meafure by their con(lni(5lion. When they are ufed to exprefs 
fimple apprehenfion, they are followed by a noun in the acciifativc. 
cafe, which fignifies the object conceived. But when they are ufed 
to exprefs opinion or judgment, they are commonly followed by a 
verb in the infinitive mood. " I conceive an Egyptian pyramid." 
This implies no judgment. " I conceive the Egyptian pyramids to 
" be the moft ancient monuments of human art." This implies 
judgment. When the words are ufed in the laft fenfe, the thing 
conceived muft be a propofition, becaufe judgment cannot be ex- 
prefied but by a propofition. When they are ufed in the firft fenfe, 
the thing conceived may be no propofition, but a fimple term only, 
as a pyramid, an obelifk. Yet it may be obferved, that even a pro- 
pofition may be fimply apprehended without forming any judg- 
ment of its truth or falfehood : For it is one thing to conceive the 
meaning of a propofition ; it is another thing to judge it to be true 
or falfe. 

C 2 Although 



c H A P. I. Although the diftindion between fimple apprehenfion and ever^ 
degree of atlent or judgment, be perfedly evident to every man 
who reflects attentively on what pafles in his own mind; although it 
is very neceffary, in treating of the powers of the mind, to attend 
carefully to this diftindion ; yet, in the affairs of common hfe, it 
is feldom neceflary to obferve it accurately. On this account we 
fliall find, in all common languages, the words which exprefs one 
of thofe operations frequently applied to the other. To think, to 
fuppofe, to imagine, to conceive, to apprehend, are the words we 
ufe to exprefs fimple apprehenfion ; but they are all frequently 
ufed to exprefs judgment. Their ambiguity feldom occafions any 
inconvenience in the common affairs of life, for which language is 
framed. But it has perplexed Philofophers, in treating of the ope- 
rations of the mind, and will always perplex them, if they do not 
attend accurately to the different meanings which are put upon 
thofe words on different occafions. 

g. Mofl of the operations of the mind, from their very nature,^ 
mufl have objedls to which they are diredted, and about which 
they are employed. He that perceives, mufl perceive fomethlng ; 
and that which he perceives is called the objed of his perception. 
To perceive, without having any objedl of perception, is impoflible. 
The mind that perceives, the objedl perceived, and the operation of 
perceiving that objedl, are diflindl things, and are diflinguifhed in 
the flrudure of all languages. In this fentence, " I fee, or perceive 
" the moon ;" / is the perfon or mind ; the adlive verb fee denotes 
the operation of that mind ; and the moon denotes the objed. What 
we have faid of perceiving, is equally applicable to mofl operations 
of the mind. Such operations are, in all languages, expreffed by 
adlive tranfitive verbs : And we know, that, in all languages, fuch 
verbs require a thing or perfon, which is the agent, and a noun 
following in an oblique cafe, which is the objedl. Whence it is 
evident, that all mankind, both thofe who have contrived language, 
and thofe who ufe it with underftanding, have diflinguiflied thefe 
three things as difl'ercnt, to wit, the operations of the mind, which 



are exprefTed by adive verbs, the mind itfelf, which is the nomina- CHAP. I. 
tive to thofe verbs, and the objed, which is, in the obUque cafe, 
governed by them. 

It would have been unneceflary to explain fo obvious a diftinc- 
tion, if fome fyftems of philofophy had not confounded it. Mr 
Hume's fyftem, in particular, confounds all diflindion between 
the operations of the mind and their objects. When he fpeaks of 
the ideas of memory, the ideas of imagination, and the ideas of 
fenfe, it is often impoffible, from the tenor of his difcourfe, to 
know whether, by thofe ideas, he means the operations of the 
" mind, or the obje(5l:s about which they are employed. And in- 
deed, according to his fyftem, there is no diftindion between the 
one and the other. 

A Philofopher is, no doubt, entitled to examine even thofe di- 
ftindions that are to be found in the ftrudure of all languages; and, 
if he is able to fhew that there is no foundation for them in the 
nature of the things diftinguifhed ; if he can point out fome pre- 
judice common to mankind which has led them to diftinguifh 
things that are not really diiFerent ; in that cafe, fuch a diftindlion 
may be imputed to a vulgar error, which ought to be corrected in 
philofophy. But when, in his firft fetting out, he takes it for 
granted, without proof, that diftindlions found in the ftrudure of 
all languages, have no foundation in nature ; this furely is too 
faftidiovis a way of treating the common fenfe of mankind. When 
we come to be inftrudled by Philofophers, we muft bring the old 
light of common fenfe along with us, and by it judge of the new 
light which the Philofopher communicates to us. But when we 
are requii-ed to put out the old light altogether, that we may fol- 
low the new, we have reafon to be on our guard. There may be 
diftindions that have a real foundation, and which may be necef- 
farv in philofophy, which are not made in common language, be- 
caufe not neceifary in the common bufinefs of life. But I believe 


22 E S S A Y I. 

^M^J*- ^- no inftance will be found of a diflindlion made in all languages, 
which has not a juft foundation in nature. 

lo. The word idea occurs fo frequently in modern philofophical 
writings upon the mind, and is fo ambiguous in its meaning, that 
it is neceflary to make forae obferyations upon it. There are 
chiefly two meanings of this word in modern authors, a popular 
and a philofophical. 

Firjl^ In popular language, idea the fame thing as con- 
ception, apprehenfion, notion. To have an idea of any thing, 
is to conceive it. To have a diftincfl idea, is to conceive it di- 
ftindlly. To have no idea of it, is not to conceive it at all. 
It was before obferved, that conceiving or apprehending has 
always been confidered by all men as an a<5l or operation of the 
mind, and on that account has been exprefTed in all languages by 
an adlive verb. When, therefore, we ufe the phrafe of having 
ideas, in the popular fenfe, we ought to attend to this, that it fig- 
nifies precifely the fame thing which we commonly exprefs by 
the a(5live verbs conceiving or apprehending. 

When the word idea is taken in this popular fenfe, no man can 
poflibly doubt whether he has ideas. For he that doubts muft 
think, and to think is to have ideas. 

Sometimes, in popular language, a man's ideas flgnify his opi- 
nions. The ideas of Aristotle, or of Epicurus, fignify the 
opinions of thefe Philofophers. What was formerly faid of the 
words imagine^ conceive, apprehend^ that they are fometimes ufed to 
exprefs judgment, is no lefs true of the word idea. This fignifi- 
cation of the word feems indeed more common in the French 
language than in Englilh. But it is found in this fenfe in good 
Englifh authors, and even in Mr Locke. Thus we fee, that 
having ideas, taken in the popular fenfe, has precifely the fame 
meaning with conceiving, imagining, apprehending, and has like- 



wife the fame ambiguity. It may, therefore, be doubted, whether chap. i. 
the intrqdudion of this word into popular difcourfe, to fignify the 
operation of conceiving or apprehending, was at all neceflary. For, 
fir/I, We have, as has been fliown, feveral words which are either ori- 
ginally Englifli, or have been long naturalized, that exprefs the fame 
thing ; why therefore fhould we adopt a Greek word in place of 
thefe, any more than a French or a German word ? Befides, the 
words of our own language are lefs ambiguous. For the word idea 
has, for many ages, been ufed by Philofophers as a term of art ; and 
in the different fyflems of Philofophers means very different things. 

Secondly^ According to the philofophical meaning of the word 
idea, it does not fignify that a(ft of the mind which we call thought 
or conception, but fome objecfl of thought. Ideas, according to 
Mr Locke, (whofe very freqvtent ufe of this word has probably 
been the occafion of its being adopted into common language), 
" are nothing but the immediate objedls of the mind in thinking." 
But of thofe objedls of thought called Ideas, different fedls of Phi- 
lofophers have given a very different account. Bruckerus, a 
learned German, wrote a whole book giving the hiftory of ideas. 

The moft ancient fyftem we have concerning ideas, is that which 
is explained in feveral dialogues of Plato, and which many an- 
cient, as well as modern writers, have afcribed to Plato as the in- 
ventor. But it is certain that Plato had his dodlrine upon this 
fubje(5l, as well as the name idea^ from the fchool of Pythagoras. 
We have ftill extant a tra(5l of Tim a: us the Locrian, a Pythago- 
rean Philofopher, concerning the foul of the world, in which we 
find the fubftance of Plato's dodlrine concerning ideas. They 
were held to be eternal, uncreated, and immutable forms or mo- 
dels, according to which the Deity made every fpecies of things 
that exifts, of an eternal matter. Thofe Philofophers held, that 
there are three firll principles of all things. F'lrjl^ An eternal 
matter, of which all things were made. Secondly^ Eternal and im- 
material forms or ideas, according to which they were made ; and, 




CHAP. L thirdly. An efficient cai;fe, the Deity, who made them. The mind 
of man, in order to its being fitted for the contemplation of thefe 
eternal ideas, muft undergo a certain purification, and be weaned 
from fenfible things. The eternal ideas are the only object of 
fcience ; becaufe, the objeds of fenfe being in a perpetual flux, 
there can be no real knowledge with regard to them. 

The Philofophers of the Alexandrian fchool, commonly called /^<? 
latter Platotiifts, made fome change upon the fyftera of the ancient 
Platonifls with refpedl to the eternal ideas. They held them not 
to be a principle diflind from the Deity, but to be the conceptions 
of things in the divine underflanding, the natures and efTences of 
all things being perfedly known to him from eternity. 

It ought to be obferved, that the Pythagoreans and the Platonifts, 
whether elder or latter, made the eternal ideas to be objeds of fci- 
ence only, and of abflraclTl contemplation, not the objedls of fenfe. 
And in this the ancient fyflem of eternal ideas differs from the mo- 
dern one of Father Malbbranche. He held in common with 
other modern Philofophers, that no external thing is perceived by 
us immediately, but only by ideas : But he thought, that the ideas, 
by which we perceive an external world, are the ideas of the Deity 
himfelf, in whofe mind the ideas of all things pad, prefent, and 
future, mufl have been from eternity ; for the Deity being inti- 
mately prefent to our minds at all times, may difcover to us as 
much of his ideas as he fees proper, according to certain efta- 
blifhed laws of nature : And in his ideas, as in a mirror, we per- 
ceive whatever we do perceive of the external world. 

Thus we have three fyflems, which maintain, that the ideas, 
which are the immediate objects of human knowledge, are eternal 
and immutable, and exifled before the things which they reprefent. 
There are other fyflems, according to which, the ideas, which are 
the immediate objedls of all our thoughts, are poflerior to the 
things which they reprefent, and derived from chem. We fhall 



give fome account of thefe ; but as they have gradually fprung out CHAP. i. 
of the ancient Peripatetic fyftem, it is necelTary to begin with fome 
account of it. 

Aristotle taught, that all the objedls of our thought enter at 
firft by the fenfes ; and, fince the fenfe cannot receive external ma- 
terial obje<5ls themfelves, it receives their fpecies ; that is, their 
images or forms, w^ithout the matter; as wax rece ves the form of 
the feal without any of the matter of it. Thefe images or forms, 
imprefled upon the fenfes, are czWtdfenftble fpecies, and are the ob- 
jedls only of the fenfitive part of the mind : But, by various in- 
ternal powers, they are retained, refined, and fpiritualized, fo as to 
become obje(5ls of memory and imagination, and, at laft, of pure in- 
telledlion. When they are objects of memory and of imagination, 
they get the name of phantafms. When, by farther refinement, 
and being dripped of their particularities, they become objedls of 
Icience ; they are called intelligible fpecies : So that every Imme- 
diate objedl, whether of fenfe, of memory, of imagination, or of 
reafoning, mud be fome phantafm or fpecies in the mind itfelf. 

The followers of Aristotle, efpecially the fchoolmen, made 
great additions to this theory, which the Author himfelf mentions 
very briefly, and with an appearance of referve. They entered in- 
to large difquifitions with regard to the fenfible fpecies, what kind 
of things they are ; how they are fent forth by the objedl, and en- 
ter by the organs of the fenfes ; how they are preferved and refined 
by various agents, called internal fenfes ; concerning the number 
and offices of which they had many controverfies. But we fliall 
not enter into a detail of thefe matters. 

The reafon of giving this brief account of the theory of the Pe- 
ripatetics, with regard to the immediate objedls of our thoughts, 
is, becaufe the dodlrine of modern Philofophers concerning ideas 
is built upon it. Mr I ocke, who ufes this word fo very frequent- 
ly, tells us, that he means the fame thing by it, as is commonly 

D meant 

26 E S S A Y I. 

•CHAP. I. meant by /pecks or phantafm. Gassendi, from whom Locke 
borrowed more than from any other author, fays the fame. The 
words /pedes and phantafm ^ are terms of art in the Peripatetic 
fyftem, and the meaning of them is to be learned from it. 

The theory of Democritus and Epicurus, on this fubjedt, was 
not very unlike to that of the Peripatetics. They lield, that all bo- 
dies continually fend forth flender films or fpe<5lres from their fur- 
face, of fuch extreme fubtilty, that they eafily penetrate our grofs 
bodies, or enter by the organs of fenfe, and ftamp their image up- 
on the mind. The fenfible fpecies of Aristotle were mere forms 
without matter. The fpedlres of Epicurus were compofed of a 
very fubtile matter. 

Modern Philofophers, as well as the Peripatetics and Epicureans 
of old, have conceived, that external objedls cannot be the imme- 
diate objedts of our thought ; that there muft be fome image of 
them in the mind itfelf, in which, as in a mirror, they are feen. 
And the name idea^ in the philofophical fenfe of it, is given to 
thofe internal and immediate objedls of our thoughts. The exter- 
nal thing is the remote or mediate obje<5l ; but the idea, or image 
of that objedl in the mind, is the immediate obje(5l, without which 
we could have no perception, no remembrance, no conception of 
the mediate objedl. 

When, therefore, in common language, we fpeak of having an 
idea of any thing, we mean no more by that expreflion, but think- 
ing of it. The vulgar allow, that this expreflion implies a mind 
that thinks ; an adl of that mind which we call thinking, and an ob- 
jedl about which we think. B\tt, befides thefe three, the Philofo- 
pher conceives that there is a fourth, to v/it, the idea^ which is the 
immediate objedl. The idea is in the mind itfelf, and can have no 
exiflence but in a mind that thinks ; but the remote or rfiediate ob- 
jedl may be fomething external, as the fun or moon ; it may be 
fomething pad or future ; it may be fomething which never exifted. 



This is the philofophical meaning of the word idea ; and we may <^HAP. I. 
obferve, that this meaning of that word is built upon a philofophical 
opinion : For, if Philofophers had not believed that there are fuch 
immediate objedls of all our thoughts in the mind, they would never 
have ufed the word idea to exprefs them. 

I fhall only add on this article, that, although I may have occa- 
fion to ufe the word idea in this philofophical fenfe in explaining 
the opinions of others, I fliall have no occafion to ufe it in exprefs- 
ing my own, becaufe I believe ideasy taken in this fenfe, to be a mere 
fiction of Philofophers. And, in the popular meaning of the word, 
there is the lefs occafion to ufe it, becaufe the Englilh words thoughts 
notion, apprehenjion, anfwer the purpofe as well as the Greek word 
idea; with this advantage, that they are lefs ambiguous. There is, 
indeed, a meaning of the word idea, which I think moft agreeable 
to its ufe in ancient philofophy, and which I would willingly adopt, 
if ufe, the arbiter of language, did permit. But this will come to 
be explained afterwards. 

1 1. The word imprejfion is ufed by Mr Hume, in fpeaking of the 
operations of the mind, almoft as often as the word idea is by Mr 
Locke. What the latter calls ideas, the former divides into two 
clafles ; one of which he calls impreffions, the other ideas. I fhall 
make fome obfervations upon Mr Hume's explication of that word, 
and then confider the proper meaning of it in the Englifh language. 



" We may divide, (fays Mr Hume, Eflays, vol. 2. page 18.), all 
the perceptions of the human mind into two clafles or fpecies, 
which are diftinguifhed by their different degrees of force and 
vivacity. The lefs lively and forcible are commonly denomina- 
" ted thoughts or ideas. The other fpecies want a name in our 
" language, and in mofl others ; let us therefore ufe a little free- 
" dom, and call them impreffions. By the term imprejions, 
" then, I mean all our more lively perceptions, when we hear, or 
" fee, or feel, or love, or hate, or defire, or will. Ideas are the 

D 2 " lefs 


CHAP, J. « lefs lively perceptions, of which we are confcious, when we re- 
" fiedl on any of thofe feafations or movements above men- 
« tioned." 

This is the explication Mr Hume hath given in "his EfTays of the 
term imprejjions^ when applied to the mind ; and his explication of 
it, in his Treatife of human nature, is to the fame purpofe. 

Difputes about words belong rather to Grammarians than to 
Philofophers ; but Philofophers ought not to efcape cenfure when 
they corrupt a language, by ufing words in a way which the puri- 
ty of the language will not admit. I find fault with Mr Hume's 
phrafeology in the words I have quoted,. 

F'trjl^ Becaufe he gives the name of perceptions to every operation 
of the mind. Love is a perception, hatred a perception, Defire is 
a perception, will is a perception ; and, by the fame rule, a doubt, 
a queflion, a command, is a perception. This is an intolerable 
abufe of language, which no Philofopher has authority to introduce. 

Secondly^ When Mr Hume fays, that we may divide all the percep- 
tions of the human mind into two clajfes or /pedes, ivhich are diftingui/Jjed 
by their degrees of force and vivacity, the manner of expreffion is loofe 
and unphilofophical. To differ in fpecies is one thing; to differ in 
degree is another. Things which differ in degree only muft be of 
the fame fpecies. It is a maxim of common fenfe, admitted by all 
men, that greater and lefs do not make a change of fpecies. The 
fame man may differ in the degree of his force and vivacity, in the 
morning and at night ; in health and in ficknefs : But this is fo 
far from making him a different fpecies, that it does not fo much 
as make him a different individual. To fay, therefore, that two 
different clafles, or fpecies of perceptions, are diftinguiflied by the 
degrees of their force and vivacity, is to confound a difference of 
degree with a difference oi fpecies, which every man of under- 
(landing knows how to diftinguifli. 



'thirdly^ We may obfervc, that this Author, having given the gc- CHAP. I. 
heral name of perception to all the operations of the mind, and di- 
ftinguifhed them into two claflTes or fpecies, which differ only in 
degree, of force and vivacity, tells us, that he gives the name of 
impreffions to all our more lively perceptions; to wit, when we 
hear, or fee, or feel, or love, or hate, or defire, or will. There 
is great confufion in this account of the meaning of the word im- 
prejfton. When I fee, this is an imprejfion. But why lias not the 
Author told us, whether he gives the name of imprelfion to the ob- 
jedl feen, or to that adl of my mind by which I fee it ? When I 
fee the full moon, the full moon is one thing, my perceiving it is 
another thing. Which of thefe two things does he call an impref- 
fion ? We are left to guefs this ; nor does all that this Author 
writes about impreffions clear this point. Every thing he fays 
tends to darken it, and to lead us to think, that the full moon 
which I fee, and my feeing it, are not two things, but one and 
the fame thing. 

The fame obfervation may be applied to every other inflance 
the Author gives to illuftrate the meaning of the word imprejjion. 
" When we hear, when we feel, when we love, when we hate, 
" when we defire, when we will." In all thefe adls of the mind 
there muft be an objeB^ which is heard, or felt, or loved, or hated, 
or defired, or willed. Thus, for inftance, I love my country. 
This, fays Mr Hume, is an imprejfion. But what is the imprejfion? 
Is it my country, or is it the affecflion I bear to it? I afk the Phi- 
lofopher this queftion ; but I find no anfwer to it. And when I 
read all that he has "written on this fubjetSl, I find this word imprejfiou 
fometimes ufed to fignify an operation of the mind, fometimes the 
objedl of the operation ; but, for the mofl part, it is a vague and in- 
determined word that fi^nifies both. 


I know not whether it may be confidered as an apology for fuch 
abufe of words, in an Author who undertlood the language fo 
well, and ufed it with fo great propriety in writing on other fub- 


3© E S S A Y I. 

CHAP. 1. jeifls, that Mr Hume's fyftem, with regard to the mind, requi- 
red a language of a different ftrudture from the common ; or, if 
expreffed in plain Englifh, would have been too fhocking to the 
common fenfe of mankind. To give an inflance or two of this. 
If a man receives a prefent on which he puts a high value; if he 
fee and handle it, and put it in his pocket, this, fays Mr Hume, 
is an impreffion. If the man only dream that he received fuch a 
prefent, this is an idea. Wherein lies the difference between this 
impreffion and this idea ; between the dream and the reality ? They 
are different claffes or fpecies fays Mr Hume : fo far all men will 
agree with him. But he adds, that they are diflinguilTied only by 
different degrees of force and vivacity. Here he infinuates a tenet 
of his own, in. contradidlion to the common fenfe of mankind. 
Common fenfe convinces every man, that a lively dream is no 
nearer to a reality than a faint one ; and that if a man Ihould 
dream that he had all the wealth of Croefus, it would not put one 
farthing in his pocket. It is impoffible to fabricate arguments 
againft fuch undeniable principles, without confounding the mean- 
ing of words. 

In like manner, if a man would perfuade me that the moou 
which I fee, and my feeing it, are not two things, but one and 
the fame thing, he will anfwer his purpofe lefs by arguing this 
point in plain Englifli, than by confounding the two under one 
name, fuch as that of an impreffion : For fuch is the power of words, 
that if we can be brought to the habit of calling two things that 
are connedted, by the fame name, we are the more eafily led to be- 
lieve them to be one and the fame thing. 

Let us next confider the proper meaning of the word imprejjion 
in Englifli, that we may fee how far it is fit to exprefs either the 
operations of the mind, or their objedls. 

When a figure is flamped upon a body by preffure, that figure 
is called an impreffion^ as the impreffion of a feal on wax, of 



printing-types, or of a copperplate, on paper. This feems now to be CHAP. i. 
the literal fenfe of the word ; the efted borrowing its name from 
the caufe. But by metaphor or analogy, like moft other words, 
its meaning is extended, fo as to fignify any change produ- 
ced in a body by the operation of fome external caufe. A blow 
of the hand makes no impreflion on a flone-wall ; but a battery of 
cannon may. The moon raifes a tide in the ocean, but makes no 
impreflion on rivers and lakes. 

When we fpeak of making an impreflion on the mind, the word 
is carried ftill farther from its literal meaning ; ufe, however, 
which is the arbiter of language, authorifes this application of it. 
As when we fay that admonition and reproof make little impref- 
fion on thofe who are confirmed in bad habits. The fame dif- 
courfe delivered in one way, makes a flrong impreflion on the 
hearers ; delivered in another way, it makes no impreflion at all. 

It may be obferved, that, in fuch examples, an impreflion made 
on the mind always implies fome change of purpofe or will ; fome 
new habit produced, or fome former habit weakened ; fome paffion 
raifed or allayed. When fuch changes are produced by perfuafion, 
example, or any external caufe, we fay that fuch caufes make an 
impreflion upon the mind. But when things are feen or heard, or 
apprehended, without producing any paflion or emotion, we fay 
that they make no impreflion. 

In the mofl: extenflve fenfe, an impreflion is a change produced 
in fome pafllve fubje<5l by the operation of an external caufe. If 
we fuppofc an adlive being to produce any change in itfelf by its 
own adlive power, this is never called an impreflion. It is the adt 
or operation of the being itfelf, not an impreflion upon it. From 
this it appears, that to give the name of an impreflion to any tffeci 
produced in the mind, is to fuppofe that the mind does not a&. 
at all in the profludion of that efle6l. If feeing, hearing, deflrlng, 
willing, be operations of the mind, they cannot be impreflions. If 




CHAP. I. they be impreffions, they cannot be operations of the mind. In 
the ftrucflure of all languages, they are confidered as a<5ls or opera- 
tions of the mind itfelf, and the names given them imply this. To 
call them impreflions, therefore, is to trefpafs againfl the ftrudure, 
not of a particular language only, but of all languages. 

If the word hnprejfion be an improper word to fignify the opera- 
tions of the mind, it is at leafl as improper to fignify their obje6ls ; 
for would any man be thought to fpeak with propriety, who fhould 
fay that the fun is an impreflion, that the earth and the fea are im- 
preflions ? 

It is commonly believed, and taken for granted, that every lan- 
guage, if it be fufficiently copious in words, is equally fit to exprefs 
all opinions, whether they be true or falfe. I apprehend, however, 
that there is an exception to this general rule, which deferves our 
notice. There are certain common opinions of mankind, upon 
which the ftrudure and grammar of all languages are founded. 
While thefe opinions are common to all men, there will be a great 
fimilarity in all languages that are to be found on the face of the 
earth. Such a fimilarity there really is ; for we find in all lan- 
guages the fame parts of fpeech, the diflindion of nouns and verbs, 
the diftindion of nouns into adjedive and fubflantive, of verbs 
into adive and pafllve. In verbs we find like tenfes, moods, per- 
fons and numbers. There are general rules of grammar, the fame 
in all languages. This fimilarity of flrudure in all languages 
fliews an uniformity among men in thofe opinions upon which the 
flrudure of language is founded. 

If, for inftance, we fliould fuppofe that there was a nation who 
believed that the things which we call attributes might exift with- 
out a fubjed, there would be in their language no diftindion be- 
tween adjedlves and fubflantives, nor would it be a rule with them 
that an adjedive has no meaning, unlefs when joined to a fubftan- 
tive. If there was any nation who did not diftinguifh between 



adling and being a6led upon, there would in their language be no CHAP. I. 
tiiftintflion between aclHiive and pafTive verbs, nor would it be a 
rule that the a6tive verb muft have an agent in the nominative cafe; 
but tlxat, in the paffive verb, the agent muft be in an oblique cafe. 

The ftrudlure of all languages is grounded upon common no- 
tions, which Mr Hume's philofophy oppofes, and endeavours to 
overturn. This no doubt led him to warp the common language 
into a conformity with his principles j but we ought not to imi- 
tate him in this, until we are fatisfied that his principles are built 
on a folid foundation, 

12. Senfation is a name given by Philofophers to an a<5l of 
mind, which may be diftinguifhed from all others by this, that it 
hath no objedl diftindl from the a€l itfelf. Pain of every kind is 
an uneafy fenfation. When I am pained, I cannot fay that the 
pain I feel is one thing, and that my feeling it, is another thing. 
They are one and the fame thing, and cannot be disjoined, even 
in imagination. Pain, when if is not felt, has no exiftence. It 
can be neither greater nor lefs in degree or duration, nor any thing 
elfe in kind, than it is felt to be. It cannot exift by itfelf, nor in 
any fubjedl, but in a fentient being. No quality of an inanimate 
infentient being can have the leafl refemblance to it. 

What we have faid of pain may be applied to every other fen- 
fation. Some of them are agreeable, others uneafy, in various 
degrees. Thefe being obje(f^s of delire or averfioh, have fome at- 
tention given to them ; but many are indifferent, and fo little at- 
tended to, that they have no name in any language. 

Mod operations of the mind, that have names in common lan- 
guage, are complex in their nature, and made up of various in- 
gredients, or more fimple adls ; which, though conjoined in our 
conftitution, muft be disjoined by abftradlion, in order to our 
having a diftin(5t and fcientific notion of the complex operation. 

E In 



CHAP. T. In fuch operations, fenfation for the moft part makes an ingredi- 
ent. Thofe who do not attend to the complex nature of fuch 
operations, are apt to refolve them into fome one of the fimple 
' adls of which they are compounded, overlooking the others : And 
from this caufe many difputes have been raifed, and many errors 
have been occafioned with regard to the nature of fuch operations. 

The perception of external objeds is accompanied with fomc 
fenfation correfponding to the obje<5l perceived, and fuch fenfa- 
tions have, in many cafes, in all languages, the fame name with 
the external objeiH: which they always accompany.- The difficulty 
of disjoining by abftradlion, things thus conftantly conjoined in 
the courfe of nature, and things, which have one and the fame name 
in all languages, has likewife been frequently an occafion of errors' 
in the philofophy of the mind. To avoid fuch errors, nothing is 
of more importance than to have a diftincH: notion of that fimple 
a.&. of the mind which we call fenfation^ and which we have en- 
deavoured to defcribe. By this means we fhall find it more eafy 
to diftinguifti it from every external objedl chat it accompanies, 
and from every other a6l of the mind that may be conjoined with 
it. For this purpofe, it is likewife of importance, that the name 
oi fenfation fhould, in philofophical writings, be appropriated to 
fignify this fimple adl of the mind, without including any tiling 
more in its fignification, or being applied to other purpofes. 

I fhall add an obfervation concerning the word feeling. This 
word has two meanings, iirjl^ It fignifies the perceptions we 
have of external objedls, by the fenfe of touch. When we fpeak 
of feeling a body to be hard or foft, rough or fmooth, hot or 
cold ; to feel thefe things, is to perceive them by touch. They 
are external things, and that ad of the mind by which we feel 
them, is eafily diflinguifhed from the objeds felt. Secondly, The 
word feeling is ufed to fignify the fame thing as fenfation, which 
we have jufl now explained ; and, in this fenfe, it has no objed ;• 
the feeling and the thing felt are one and the fame. 



Perhaps betwixt feeling, taken in this lafl fenfe, and fenfatlon, CHAP. I. 
there may be this fmall difference, that fenfation is mod common- 
ly ufed to fignify thofe feeUngs which we have by our external 
fenfes and bodily appetites, and all our bodily pains and pleafures. 
But there are feelings of a nobler nature accompanying our affec-. 
tions, our moral judgments, and our determinations in matters of 
tafte, to which the word fenfation is lefs properly applied. 

I have premifed thefe obfervations on the meaning of certain 
words that frequently occur in treating of this fubje(5l, for two 
reafons, frji. That I may be the better underftood when I ufe 
them ; and fecondlyy That thofe who would make any progrefs in 
this branch of fcience, may accuftom themfelves to attend very 
carefully to the meaning of words that are ufed in it. They may 
be affured of this, that the ambiguity of words, and the vague and 
improper application of them, have thrown more darknefs upon 
this fubjed:, than the fubtilty and intricacy of things. 

When we ufe common words, we ought to ufe them in the 
fenfe in which they are moft commonly ufed by the beft and pureft: 
■writers in the language ; and, when we have occafion to enlarge 
or reftridl the meaning of a common word, or give it more preci>- 
fion than it has in common language, the reader ought to have 
warning of this, otherwife we fliall impofe upon ourfelves and 
upon him. 

A very refpe<flable writer has given a good example of this kind^ 
by explaining in an Appendix to his Elements of Criticifm^ the 
terms he has occafion to ufe. In that Appendix, moft of the wordj 
are explained on which I have been making obfervations. And 
the explication I have given, I think, agrees, for the moft part, 
with his. 

Other words that need explication ftiall be explained as they 



C H A P. II. 

Frincipks taken for granted, 

AS there are words common to Phllofophers and to the vulgar, 
which need no explication ; fo there are principles common 
to both, which need no proof, and which do not admit of dire(5l 


One who applies to any branch of fcience miift be come to years 
of underflanding, and confequently muft have exercifed his rea- 
fon, and the other powers of his mind, in various ways. He mufl 
have formed various opinions and principles by which he condudls 
himfelf in the affairs of life. Of thofe principles, fome are com- 
mon to all men, being evident in themfelves, and fo neceffary in 
the condudl of life, that a man cannot live and a<5l according to the 
rules of common prudence without them. 

All men that have common underflanding agree in fuch prin- 
ciples, and confider a man as lunatic or deftitute of common fenfe, 
who denies, or calls them in queftion. Thus, if any man were 
found of fo (Irange a turn as not to believe his own eyes ; to put 
no truft in his fenfes, nor have the lead regard to their teftimony; 
would any man think it worth while to reafon gravely with fuch 
a perfon, and, by argument, to convince him of his error ? Surely 
no wife man would. For before men can reafon together, they 
muft agree in firft principles ; and it is impoffible to reafon with 
a man who has no principles in common with you. 

There are, therefore, common principles, which are the founda- 
tion of all reafoning, and of all fcience. Such common princi'^ 
pies feldom admit of dire<5l proof, nor do they need it. Men 
need not to be taught them ; for they are fuch as all men of 



common underftanding know; or fuch, at leaft, as they give a CH'AP. if. 
ready affent to, as foon as they are propofed and underftood. 

Such principles, when we have occaGon to ufe them in fcience, 
are called axioms. And, although it be not abfolutely neceflary, 
yet it may be of great ufe, to point out the principles or axioms on 
which a fcience is grounded. . 

Thus, mathematicians, before they prove any of the propolitions 
of mathematics, lay down certain axioms, or common principles, 
■upon which they build their reafbnings. And although thofe 
axioms be truths which every man knew before; fuch as. That the 
whole is greater than a part. That equal quantities added to equ^l 
quantities, make equal fums ; yet, when we fee nothing affumed 
in the proof of mathematical propolitions, but fuch felf-evidenc 
axioms, the propolitions appear more certain, and leave no room 
for doubt or difpute. 

In all other fciences, as well as in mathematics, it will be found, 
that there are a few common principles, upon which all the rea- 
fonings in that fcience are grounded, and into which they may be 
relblved. If thefe were pointed out and confidered, we Ihould be 
better able to judge what ftrefs may be laid upon the conclufions in 
that fcience. If the principles be certain, the conclufions juftly drawn 
from them muft be certain. If the principles be only probable, 
the conclufions can only be probable. If the principles be falfe, 
dubious, or obfcure, the fuperftrudlure that is built upon them 
muft partake of the weaknefs of the foundation. 

Sir Isaac Newton, the greatefl of Natural Phllofophers, has 
given an example well worthy of imitation, by laying down the 
common principles or axioms, on which the reafonings in natural 
philofophy are built. Before this was done, the reafonings of Phl- 
lofophers, in that fcience, were as vague and uncertain as they are 
in mod others. Nothing was fixed ; all was difpute and contro- 

verfy : 

38 E S S A Y I. 

CHAP. II. verfy : But, by this happy expedient, a folid foundation is laid in 
that fcience, and a noble fuperftrudlure is raifed upon it, about 
which there is now no more difpute or controverfy among men of 
knowledge, than there is about the conclufions of mathematics. 

It may, however, be obferved, that the firft principles of natu- 
ral philofophy are of a quite different nature from mathematical 
axioms : They have not the fame kind of evidence, nor are they 
neceffary truths, as mathematical axioms are : They are fuch as 
thefe : That fimilar effecis proceed from the fame or fimilar caufes : 
That we ought to admit of no other caufes of natural eire(fls, but 
fuch as are true, and fufficient to account for the efFedls. Thefe 
are principles, which, though they have not the fam' kind of evi- 
dence that mathematical axioms have ; yet have fuch evidence, that 
every man of common underftanding readily aflents to them, and 
finds it abfolutely neceffary to condudl his adlions and opinions by 
them, in the ordinary affairs of life. 

Though it has not been ufual, yet, I conceive it may be ufeful, 
to point out fome of thofe things which I fliall take for granted, as 
firft principles in treating of the mind and its faculties. There is 
the more occafion for this ; becaufe very ingenious men, fuch as 
Des Cartes, Malebranche, Arnauld, Locke, and many 
others, have loft much labour, by not diftinguifhing things which 
require proof, from things which, though they may admit of il- 
luftration, yet being felf-evident, do not admit of proof. When 
men attempt to deduce fuch felf-evident principles from others 
more evident, they always fall into inconclufive reafoning : And 
the confequence of this has been, that others, fuch as Berkeley 
and Hume, finding the arguments brought to prove fuch firft prin- 
:Ciples to be weak and inconclufive, have been tempted firft to doubt 
of them, and afterwards to deny them. 

It is fo irkfome to reafon with thofe who deny firft principles, 
that wife men commonly decline it. Yet it is not impoffible, that 



what is only a vulgar prejudice may be miflaken for a firfl: prin- CHAP II. 
ciple. Nor is it impoflible, that what is really a firfl: principle may, 
by the enchantment of words, have fuch a mift thrown about it, 
as to hide its evidence, and to make a man of candour doubt of it. 
Such cafes happen inore frequently perhaps in this fcience than in 
any other; but they are not altogether without remedy. There 
are ways by which the evidence of firft principles may be made 
more apparent when they are brought into difpute j but they re- 
quire to be handled in a way peculiar to themfelves. Their evi- 
dence is not demonftrative, but intuitive. They require not proofs 
but to be placed in a proper point of view. This will be fliown 
more fully in its proper place, and applied to thofe very principles 
which we now afTume. In the mean time, when they are propo- 
fed as firft principles, the reader is put on his guard, and warned- 
to confider whether they have a juft claim to that chara(3ler. 

1. F'lrjl^ then, I fhall take it for granted, that I thinks that I re^ 
member^ that I reafoHy and, in general, that I really perform all 
thofe operations of mind of which I am confcious^ 

The operations of our minds are attended with confcioufnefs ; 
ajid this confcioufnefs is the evidence, the only evidence which we 
have or can have of their exiftence. If a man fliould take it into 
his head to think or to fay that his confcioufnefs may deceive him^ 
and to require proof that it cannot, I know of no proof that can 
be given him ; he muft be left to himfelf as a man that denies firft 
principles, without which there can be no reafoning. Every man 
finds himfelf under a necefllty of believing what confcioufnefs. 
teftifies, and every thing that hath this teftimony is to be taken as a 
firft principle. 

2. As by confcioufnefs we know certainly the exiftence of our 
prefent thoughts and paflions ; fo we know the part by remembrance. 
And when they are recaat, and the remembrance of them frefti„ 




CHAP. II. ji^g knowledge of them, from fuch diflinct remembrance, is, in 
its certainty and evidence, next to that of confcioufnefs. 

3. But it is to be obferved, that we are confcious of many things 
to which we give little or 110 attention. We can hardly attend to 
feveral things at the fame time ; and our attention is commonly 
employed about that which is the objed of our thought, and rarely 
about the thought itfelf. Thus, when a man is angry, his attention 
is turned to the injury done him, or the injurious perfon ; and he 
gives very little attention to the paffion of anger, although he is 
confcious of it. It is in our power, however, when we come to 
the years of underftanding, to give attention to our own thoughts 
and paffions, and the various operations of our minds. And when 
we make thefe the objeds of our attention, either while they are 
prefent, or when they are recent and frefli in our memory, thia 
:a6i of the mind is called refleBion. 

We take it for granted, therefore, that, by attentive relle<5lion, 
a man may have a clear and certain knowledge of the operations 
of his own mind; a knowledge no lefs clear and certain, than that 
which he has of an external objedl when it is fet before his eyes. 

This reflection is a kind of intuition, it gives a like conviction 
with regard to internal obje(5ls, or things in the mind, as the fa- 
culty of feeing gives with regard to objecfls of fight. A man mufl, 
therefore, be convinced beyond poffibility of doubt, of every thing 
•v*ith regard to the operations of his own mind, which he clearly 
and diftincflly difcerns by attentive refleclion. 

4. I take it for granted that all the thoughts I am confcious of, 
or remember, are the thoughts of one and the fame thinking 
principle, which I call niyfclf^ or my inhtd. Every man has an 
immediate and irrefiftible convi(5lion, not only of his prefent 
exiftence, but of his continued exiftence and identity, as far back 
as he can remember. If any man fhould think fit to demand 



a proof that the thoughts he is fucceflively confcious of belong to CHAP. ir. 
one and the fame thinking principle. If he fliould demand a proof 
that he is the fame perfon to-day as he was yefterday, or a year 
ago, I know no proof that can be given him : He muft be left to 
himfelf, either as a man that is lunatic, or as one who denies firfl: 
principles, and is not to be reafoned with. 

Every man of a found mind finds himfelf under a neceffity of 
believing his own identity, and continued exiftence. The con- 
vidlion of this is immediate and irrefiftible ; and if he fliould lofe 
this convi<5tion, it would be a certain proof of infanity, which is 
not to be remedied by reafoning. 

5. I take it for granted that there are fome things which cannot 
exift by themfelves, but muft be in fomething elfe to which they 
belong, as qualities or attributes. 

Thus motion cannot exift but in fomething that is moved. And 
to fuppofe that there can be motion while every thing is at reft, is 
a grofs and palpable abfurdity. In like manner, hardnefs and foft- 
nefs, fweetnefs and bitternefs, are things which cannot exift by 
themfelves ; they are qualities of fomething which is hard or foft, 
fweet or bitter : That thing, whatever it be, of which they are 
qualities, is called their fubjeft, and fuch qualities neceflarily fup- 
pofe a fubjedl. 

Things which may exift by themfelves, and do not neceflarily 
fuppofe the exiftence of any thing elfe, are called fubftances ; and 
with relation to the qualities or attributes that belong to them, 
they are called the fubjeds of fuch qualities or attributes. 

All the things which we immediately perceive by our fenfes, 
and all the things we are confcious of, are things which muft be 
in fomething elfe as their fubjedl. Thus by my fenfes, I perceive 
figure, colour, hardnefs, foftnefs, motion, refiftance, and fuch 

F like 



CHAP. II. like things. But thefe are qualities, and muft neceflarily be in 
fomething that is figured, coloured, hard or foft, that moves, or 
refills. It is not to thefe qualities, but to that which is the fiibjeft 
of them, that we give the name of body. If any man {hould think 
fit to deny that thefe things are qualities, or that they require any 
fubje<5l, I leave him to enjoy his opinion as a man who denies firft 
principles, and is not fit to be rcafoncd with. If he has common 
vinderftanding, he will find that he cannot converfe half an hour 
without faying things which imply the contraiy of what he pro- 
feffes to believe. 

In like manner, the things I am confcious of, fuch as thought, 
reafoning, defire, neceflarily fuppofe fomething that thinks, that 
reafons, that defires. We do not give the name of mind to thought, 
reafon, or defire ; but to that being which thinks, which reafons, 
and which defires. 

That every a.&. or operation, therefore, fuppofes an agent, that 
every quality fuppofes a fubjedl, are things which I do not attempt 
to prove, but take for granted. Every man of common under- 
ftanding difcerns this immediately, and cannot entertain the lead 
doubt of it. In all languages we find certain words which, by 
Grammarians, are called adjedlives. Such words denote atti'ibutes, 
and every adjedlive muft have a fubftantive to which it belongs j 
that is, every attribute muft have a fubje^l. In all languages we 
find a<5live verbs which denote fome adlion or operation ; and it 
is a fundamental rule in the grammar of all languages, that fuch 
a verb fuppofes a perfon ; that is, in other words, that every a(flion 
muft have an agent. "We take it, therefore, as a firft principle, 
that goodnefs, wifdom, and virtue, can only be in fome being that 
is good, vpife, and virtuous ; that thinking fuppofes a being that 
thinks ; and that every operation we are confcious of fuppofes an 
agent that operates, which we call mind. 

6. I take it for granted that, in moft operations of the mind, there 



muft be an objedl diflincfl from the operation Itfelf. I cannot fee, CHAP. II. 
without feeing fomething. To fee withouc having any obje(5l of 
fight is abfurd. I cannot remember, without remembering fome- 
thing. The thing remembered is paft, while the remembrance of 
it is prefent ; and therefore the operation and the objecfl of it muft 
be diftindl things. The operations of our minds are denoted, in all 
languages, by adtive tranfitive verbs, which, from their conftruc- 
tion in grammar, require not only a perfon or agent, but likewife 
an objedl of the operation. Thus the verb know, denotes an ope- 
ration of mind. From the general ftru(5lure of language, this verb 
requires, a perfon; I know, you know, or he knows: But it re- 
quires no lefs a noun in the accufative cafe, denoting the thing 
known ; for he that knows, muft know fomething ; and to know, 
without having any objedl of knowledge, is an abfurdity too grofs 
to admit of reafoning. 

7. We ought likewife to take for granted, as firft principles, 
things wherein we find an univerfal agreement, among the learned 
and unlearned, in the different nations and ages of the world. 
A confent of ages and nations, of the learned and vulgar, ought, 
at lead, to have great authority, unlefs we can fliow fome preju- 
dice, as univerfal as that confent is, which might be the caufe of 
h. Truth is one, but error is infinite. There are many truths fo 
obvious to the human faculties, that it may be expedled that men 
fhould univerfally agree in them. And this is adlually found to be 
tlie cafe with regard to many truths, againfl which we find no 
difTent, unlefs perhaps that of a few fceptical Philofophers, who 
may juftly be fufpe<5led, in fuch cafes, to differ from the reft of 
mankind, through pride, obftinacy, or fome favourite palTion. 
"Where there is fuch univerfal confent in things not deep nor in- 
tricate, but which lie, as it were, on the fur face, there is the 
greateft prefumption that can be, that it is the natural refujt of the 
human faculties ; and it muft have great authority with every fober 

F 2 mind 



CHAP. II, mind that loves truth. Major enim pars eo fere defer ri folet quo ana- 
tura deducilur. Cic. de Off. i. 41. 

Perhaps it may be thought, that it is impoflible to coUedl the 
opinions of all men upon any point whatfoever, and, therefore, that 
this maxim can be of no ufe. But there are many cafes wherein 
it is otherwife. Who can doubt, for inftance, whether mankind 
have, in all ages, believed the exiftence of a material world, and 
that thofe things which they fee and handle are real, and not mere 
illufions and apparitions ? Who can doubt, whether mankind have 
univerfally believed, that every thing that begins to exift, and every 
change that happens in nature, muft have a caufe? Who can doubt, 
whether mankind have been univerfally perfuaded that there is a 
right and a wrong in human condudl ? Some things which, in cer- 
tain circumftances, they ought to do, and other things which they 
ought not to do ? The univerfality of thefe opinions, and of many 
fuch that might be named, is fufficiently evident, from the whole 
tenor of mens condudl, as far as our acquaintance reaches, and 
from the records of hiftory, in all ages and nations, that are tranf^ 
mitted to us. 

There are other opinions that appear to be univerfal, from what 
is common in the ftrudlure of all languages, ancient and modern, 
polilhed and barbarous. Language is the exprefs image and 
pidlure of human thoughts ; and, from the pidlure, we may often 
draw very certain conclufions with regard to the original. We 
find in all languages the fame parts of fpeech, nouns fubftantive 
and adjcdlive, verbs adlive and paffive, varied according to the 
tenfes of part, prefent, and future ; we find adverbs, prepofitions, 
and conjundions. There are general rules of fyntax common to 
all languages. This uniformity in the ftru6lure of languagej 
Ihows a certain degree of uniformity in thofe notions upon which 
the ftrutSlure of language is grounded. 

We find, in the ftrudlure of all languages, the diftindion of 



acftlng and being adted upon, the dlftindlion of adlion and agent, CHAP. II. 

of quality and fubjcdl, and many others of the like kind ; which 

fliows, that thefe diftintflions are founded in the univerfal fenfe of 

mankind. We fhall have frequent occafion to argue from the fenfe 

of mankind exprefled in the (Irudlure of language ; and therefore 

it was proper here to take notice of the force of arguments drawn 

from this topic. 

8. I need hardly fay, that I fhall alfo take for granted fuch fadls 
as are attefted to the conviction of all fober and reafonable men, 
either by our fenfes, by memory, or by human teflimony. Al- 
though fome writers on this fubjecfl have difputed the authority 
of the fenfes, of memory, and of every human faculty ; yet we 
find, that fuch perfons, in the condudl of life, in purfuing their 
ends, or in avoiding dangers, pay the fame regard to the autho- 
rity of their fenfes, and other faculties, as the refl of mankind. 
By this they give us jufl ground to doubt of their candour in their 
profeflions of fcepticifm. 

This, indeed, has always been the fate of the few that have pro- 
fefTed fcepticifm, that, when they have done what they can to dif^ 
credit their fenfes, they find themfelves, after all, under a necef^ 
fity of trufting to them. Mr Hume has been fb candid as to ac- 
knowledge this ; and it is no lefs true of thofe who have not fhown 
the fame candour : For I never heard that any fceptic run his head 
againft a pofl, or flept into a kermel, becaufe he did not believe 
his eyes. 

Upon the whole, I acknowledge that we ought to be cauti- 
ous, that we do not adopt opinions as firfl: principles, yvhich are 
not entitled to that charadler. But there is furely the leaft dan- 
ger of mens being impofed upon in this way, when fuch prin- 
ciples openly lay claim to the charadler, and are thereby fairly ex- 
pofed to the examination of thofe who may difpute their autho- 
rity. We do not pretend, that thofe things that are laid down as 

firft principles may not be examined, and that we ought not to 


4^ E S S A Y I. 

CHAP. II. have our ears open to what maybe pleaded againft their being ad- 
mitted as fuch. Let us deal with them, as an upright judge does 
with a witnefs who has a fair charadter. He pays a regard to the 
tellimony of fuch a witnefs, while his characfler is unimpeached. 
But if it can be fhown that he is fuborned, or that he is influenced 
by malice or partial favour, his teftimony lofes all its credit, and 
is juftly rejedled. 

Of Hypotbefes. 

EVERY branch of human knowledge hath its proper prin- 
ciples, its proper foundation and method of reafoning ; and, 
if we endeavour to build it upon any other foundation, it will ne- 
ver ftand firm and flable. Thus the hiftorian builds upon tefli- 
mony, and rarely indulges conjedlure. The antiquarian mixes 
conjedlure with teftimony ; and the former often makes the larger 
ingredient. The mathematician pays not the leaft regard either to 
teftimony or conje<flure, but deduces every thing, by demonftrative 
reafoning, from his definitions and axioms. Indeed, whatever is 
built upon conjecture, is improperly called fcience ; for conjedure 
may beget opinion, but cannot produce knowledge. Natural phi- 
lofophy muft be built upon the phaenomena of the material fyftem, 
difcovered by obfervation and experiment. 

"When men firft began to philofophife, that is, to carry their 
thoughts beyond the obje<fls of fenfe, and to enquire into the 
caufes of things, and the fecret operations of nature, it was very 
natural for them to indulge conjecflure ; nor was it to be expe(5led, 
that, in many ages, they fhould difcover the proper and fcientific 
way of proceeding in philofophical difquifitions. Accordingly we 
find, that the moft ancient fyftems in every branch of philofophy 
were nothing but the conje(5lures of men famous for their wifdom, 
whofe fame gave authority to their opinions. Thus, in early ages» 



wife men conjedlured, that this earth is a vaft plain, furrounded CHAP. III.^ 
on all hands by a boundlefs ocean. That from this ocean, the fun, 
moon, and (lars, emerge at their rifing, and plunge into it again 
at their fetting. 

With regard to the mind, men in their rudeft ftate are apt to conjec- 
ture, that the principle of life in a man is his breath ; becaufe the 
moft obvious diftindlion between a living and a dead man is, that 
the one breathes, and the other does not. To this it is owing, that, 
in ancient languages, the word which denotes the foul, is that 
which properly fignifies breath or air. 

As men advance in knowledge, their firft conjedlures appear filly 
and childiCh, and give place to others, which tally better with later 
obfervations and difcoveries. Thus one fyftem of philofophy fuc- 
ceeds another, without any claim to fuperior merit ; but this, that 
it is a more ingenious fyftem of conjedkures, and accounts better 
for common appearances. 

To omit many ancient fyftems of this kind, Des Cartes, about 
the middle of the laft century, diffatisfied with the materia prima, 
xh.t fubjiantial forms, and the occult qualities of the Peripatetics, con- 
jedlured boldly, that the heavenly bodies of our fyftem are carried 
round by a vortex or whirlpool of fubtile matter, juft as ftraws 
and chaff are carried round in a tub of water. He conjectured, 
that the foul is feated in a fmall gland in the brain, called the pineal 
gland : That there, as in her chamber of prefence, fhe receives in- 
telligence of every thing that affeds the fenfes, by means of a 
fubtile fluid contained in the nerves, called the animal fpirits ; and 
that flie difpatches thefe animal fpirits, as her meftengers, to put 
in motion the feveral mufcles of the body, as there is occafion. 
By fuch conjedlures as thefe, Des Cartes could account for every 
phgenomenon in nature, in fiich a plaufible manner, as gave fatisfac- 
tion to a great part of the learned world for more than half a 



CHAP. III. Such conjedures in philofophical matters have commonly got 
the name of hypothefes^ or theories. And the invention of a hypo- 
thefis, founded on fome flight probabilities, which accounts for 
many appearances of nature, has been confidered as the highefl at- 
tainment of a Philofopher. If the hypothefis hangs vpell together, 
is embellifhed by a lively imagination, and ferves to account for 
common appearances ; it is confidered by many as having all the 
qualities that (hould recommend it to our belief; and all that 
ought to be required in a philofophical fyftem. 

There is fuch pronenefs in men of genius to invent hypothefes, 
and in others to acquiefce in them, as the utmoft which the human 
faculties, can attain in philofophy, that it is of the laft confequence 
to the progrefs of real knowledge, that men fliould have a clear and 
diftindl underftanding of the nature of hypothefes in philofophy, 
and of the regard that is due to them. 

Although fome conjedlures may have a confiderable degree of 
probability, yet it is evidently in the nature of conjedure to be 
uncertain. In every cafe the aflent ought to be proportioned to the 
evidence ; for to believe firmly, what has but a fmall degree of 
probability, is a manifeft abufe of our underftanding. Now, 
though we may, in many cafes, form very probable conjedlures 
concerning the works of men, every conjecflure we can form with 
regard to the works of God, has as little probability as the con- 
je(5lures of a child with regard to the works of a man. 

The wifdom of God exceeds that of the wifeft man, more than 
his wifdom exceeds that of a child. If a child were to conjedure 
how an army is to be formed in the day of battle ; how a city is 
to be fortified, or a ftate governed ; what chance has he to guefs 
right? As little chance has the wifeft man when he pretends to 
conje<flure how the planets move in their courfes, how the fea ebbs 
and flows, and how our minds a«5l upon our bodies. 



If a thoufand of the greatefl wits that ever the world produced, CHaf. ill , 
were, without any previous knowledge in anatomy, to fit down and 
contrive how, and by what internal organs, the various fun(5tions 
of the human body are carried on ; how the blood is made 
to circulate, and the limbs to move, they would not in a thoufand 
years hit upon any thing like the truth. 

Of all the difcoveries that have been made concerning the in- 
ward ftrudlure of the human body, never one was made by con- 
jedlure. Accurate obfervations of Anatoraifts have brought to light 
innumerable artifices of nature in the contrivance of this machine 
of the human body, which we cannot but admire as excellently 
adapted to their feveral purpofes. But the moft fagacious phyfio- 
logift never dreamed of them till they were difcovered. On the 
other hand, innumerable conjectures, formed in different ages, 
with regard to the ftrudlure of the body, have been confuted by 
obfervation, and none ever confirmed. 

What we have faid of the internal ftrudlure of the human bo- 
•dy, may be faid, with juftice, of every other part of the works of 
God, wherein any real difcovery has been made. Such difcove- 
ries have always been made by patient obfervation, by accurate 
experiments, or by conclufions drawn by ftridl reafoning from ob- ' 

fervations and experiments ; and fuch difcoveries have always tend- 
ed to refute, but not to confirm, the theories and hypothefes which 
ingenious men had invented. 

As this is a fadl confirmed by the hiftory of philofophy in all 
paft ages, it ought to have taught men, long ago, to treat with juft 
contempt hypothefes in every branch of philofophy, and to de- 
fpair of ever advancing real knowledge in that way. The Indian 
Philofopher, being at a lofs to know how the earth was fupported, 
invented the hypothefis of a huge elephant ; and this elephant he 
fuppofed to ftand upon the back of a huge tortoife. This hypo- 
thefis, however ridiculous it appears to us, might feem very rea- 

G fonable 



CHAP. III. fonable to other Indians, who knew no more than the inventor of 
it ; and the fame will be the fate of all hyppthefes invented hy- 
men to account for the works of God : They may have a decent 
and plaufible appearance to thofe who are not more knowing than 
the inventor ; but, when men come to be more enlightened, they 
will always appear ridiculous and childifli. 

This has been the cafe with regard to hypothefes that have been 
revered by the mofl enlightened part of mankind for hundreds of 
years ; and it will always be die cafe to the end of the world. For, 
until the wiidom of men bear fome proportion to the wifdom of 
God, their attempts to find out the ftrudlure of his works, by the 
force of their wit and genius, will be vain. 

The fined produdlions of human art are immenfely (hort of the 
meaneft wprks of nature. The niceft artifl cannot make a feather, • 
or the leaf of a tree. Human workmanfliip will never bear a com- 
parifon with divine. Conjeilures and hypothefes are the inven- 
tion and the workmanfhip of men, and mull bear proportion to 
the capacity and Ikill of the inventor ; and therefore will always 
be very unlike to the works of God, which it is the bufinefs of 
philolbphy to difcover. 

The world has been fo long befooled by hypothefes in all parts 
of philofophy, that it is of the utmoftconfequence to every man, 
who would make any progrefs in real knowledge, to treat them 
with juft contempt, as the reveries of vain and fanciful men, 
whofe pride makes them conceive themfelves able to unfold the 
myfteries of nature by the force of their genius. A learned man in 
an epiflle toDES Cartes has the following obfervation, which very 
much deferved the attention of that Philofopher, and of all that 
come after him. " When men, fitting in their clofet, and con- 
" fulting only their books, attempt difqnifitions into nature, they 
" may indeed tell how they would have made the world, if God 
" had given them that in commiffion; tliat is, they may defcribe 

" chimeras, 

O F H Y P O T H E S E S. jt 

" chimerats, which correfpond with the IriibecilUty of their own CHAP. Iir. 
" minds, no lefs than; the admirable beauty of the Uhiverfe cor- ' '^ ' 
•' refponds with the infinite perfedion of its Creator ; but without 
** an underflariding truly divine, they can never form fuch ari 
^* idea to themfelves as the Deity had in creating things." 

Let us, therefore, lay down this as a fundamental principle in 
our enquiries into the (Irudure of the mind, and its operations, 
that no regard is due to the conjedures or hypothefes of Philofo- 
phers, however ancient, however generally received. Let us ac- 
cuftom ourfelves to try every opinion by the touchftone of fadl 
and experience. What can fairly be deduced from fads duly ob- 
ferved, or fufficiently attefted, is genuine and pure ; it is the voice 
of God, and no fiiflion of human imagination. 

The firft rule of philofophifiri'g laid down by the great Newton, 
is this ; Caufas rerum naiurdtium^ non phires ddmtti debere^ qitam qiiig 
et vera ftnt^ et earum phanommh expUcandis fiifficidnt. " No more 
" caufes, nor any other caufes of natural efFedls ought to be ad- 
*' mitted, but fuch as are both true, and are fufficLent for ex'plain- 
" ing their appearances." This is a golden rule ; it is thie true 
and proper teft, by which what is found and folid in philofophy 
may be diftinguifhed from what is hollow and vain. 

If a Philofopher, therefore, pretends to ftiow us the canfe of any 
natural effedl, whether relating to matter or to mind ; let us firft 
confider whether there is fufficient evidence that the caufe he 
affigns does really exift. If there is not, rejedl it with difdain as 
a fiflion which ought to have no place in genuine philofophy. If 
the caufe affigned really exifts, confider, in the next place, whe- 
ther the effecH; it is brought to explain neceffarily follows from it. 
Unlefs it has thefe two conditions, it is good for nothing. 

When Newton had fhown the admirable efFe<fls of gravitation 
in our planetary fyftem, he muft have felt a flrong defire to know 

„ G 2 its 



CHAP. III. its caufe. He could have invented a hypothefis for this purpofe, 
as many had done before him. But his philofophy was of ano- 
ther complexion. Let us hear what he fays : Rationem harum gra- 
vitatis propr'ietatu7n ex pbcenomenis non potui deducere^ et hypotbefes non 
Jingo, i^u'tcquid enim ex phanomenis non deducitur hypothefis vocanda 
eft. Et hypotbefes, feu metapbyfica^ feu pby/ica, feu qualttatum occult a- 
rwn, feu mechanicay in philofopbia expcrimentali locum non babent. 


Of Analogy. 


T is natural to men to judge of things lefs known, by fome fimi- 
litude they obferve, or think they obferve, between them and 
things more familiar or better known. In many cafes, we have 
no better way of judging. And where the things compared have 
really a great fimilitude in their nature, when there is reafon to 
think that they are fubjedl to the fame laws, there may be a con- 
fid erable degree of probability in conclufions drawn from ana- 

Thus, we may obferve a very great fimilitude between this earth 
which we inhabit, and the other planets, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, 
Venus, and Mercury. They all revolve round the fun, as the 
earth does, although at different diflances, and in different pe- 
riods. They borrow all their light from the fun, as the earth does. 
Several of them are known to revolve round their axis like the 
earth, and, by that means, mufl: have a like fucceffion of day and 
night. Some of them have moons, that ferve to give them light 
in the ab fence of the fun, as our moon does to us. They are all, 
in their motions, fubjedl to the fame law of gravitation, as the 
earth is. From all this fimilitude, it is not unreafonable to think, 
that thofe planets may, like our earth, be the habitation of various 



orders of living creatures. There is foine probability in this con- CHAP. iv. 
clufion from analogy. 

In medicine, Phyficians nxufl, for the mod part, be direcTted in 
their prefcriptions by analogy. The conftitution of one human 
body is fo like to that of another, that it is reafonable to think, 
that what is the caufe of health or ficknefs to one, may have the 
fame effefl upon another. And this generally is found true, 
though not without fome exceptions. 

In politics, we reafon, for the mofl part, from analogy. The 
conftitution of human nature is fo fimilar in different focieties or 
commonwealths, that the caufes of peace and war, of tranquillity 
and fedition, of riches and poverty, of improvement and degene- 
racy, are much the fame in all. ' 

Analogical reafoning, therefore, is not, in all cafes, to be rejedled. 
It may afford a greater or a lefs degree of probability, according 
as the things compared are more or lefs fimilar in their nature. 
But it ought to be obferved, that, as this kind of reafoning can 
afford only probable evidence at beft ; fo unlefs great caution be 
ufed, we are apt to be led into error by it. For men are natural- 
ly difpofed to conceive a greater fimilitude in things than there 
really is. 

To give an inftance of this : Anatomifts, in ancient ages, feldom 
differed human bodies ; but very often the bodies of thofe qua- 
drupeds, whofe internal (trudlure was thought to approach neareft to 
that of the human body. Modern Anatomifts have difcovered many 
miftakes the ancients were led into, by their conceiving a greater 
fimilitude between the ftru(flure of men and of fome beafts than there 
is in reality. By this, and many other inftances that might be given, 
it appears, that conclufions built on analogy ftand on a flippery 
foundation ; and that we ought never to reft upon evidence of this 

kind, when we can have mpre diredl evidence. 


54 E S S A Y I. 


^ !!' ■ ^ ' ^ know no Author who has made a more jufl and a more happy 
ufeof this mode of reafoning, than Bifliop Butler, in his Ana- 
logy of ReHgion, Natural and Revealed, to the Conftitution and 
Ck)urfe of Nature. In that excellent Work, the Author does not 
ground any of the truths of religion upon analogy, as their pro- 
per evidence. He only makes ufe of analogy to artfwer objedions 
againft them. When objedions are made againft the truths of re- 
ligion, which may be made with equal flrength againft what we 
know to be true in the courfe of nature, fuch objedlions can have no 

Analogical reafoning, therefore, may be of excellent ufe in an- 
fwering objedlions againft truths which have other evidence. It 
may likewife give a greater or a lefs degree of probability in cafes 
where we can find no other evidence. But all arguments, drawA 
from analogy, are ftill the weaker, the greater difparity there is be- 
tween the things compared ; and therefore muft be weakeft of all 
when we compare body with mind, becaufe there are no two 
things in nature more unlike. 

There is no fubjedl in which men have always been fo prone to 
form their notions by analogies of this kind, as in what relates to 
the mind. We form an early acquaintance with material things 
by means of our fenfes, and are bred up in a conftant familiarity 
with them. Hence we are apt to meafure all things by them ; and 
to afcribe to things moft remote from matter, the qualities that be- 
long to material things. It is for this reafon, that mankind have, 
in all ages, been fo prone to conceive the mind itfelf to be fome 
fubtile kind of matter : That they have been difpofed to afcribe 
human figure, and human organs, not only to angels, but even to 
the Deity. Though we are confcious of the operations of our own 
minds when they are exerted, and are capable of attending to them, 
fo as to form a diftind notion of them ; this is fo difficult a work 
to men, whofe attention is conftantly folicited by external obje<5ls, 
that we give them names from things that arc familiar, and which 


O F A N A L O G Y. 55 

are conceived to have fome fimilitude to them ; and the notions we CHAP. iv. 
form of them are no lefs analogical than the names we give them. 
Almoft all the vpords, by vrhich we exprefs the operations of the 
mind, are borrowed from material objects. To underftand, to con- 
ceive, to imagine, to comprehend, to deliberate, to infer, and ma- 
ny others, are words of this kind ; fo that the very language of 
mankind, with regard to the operations of our minds, is analogi- 
cal. Becaufe bodies are affefted only by contadl and preflure, we 
are apt to conceive, that what is an immediate obje<5l of thought, ' 
and affedls the mind, mufl be in contacfl with it, and make fome 
impreffion upon it. When we imagine any thing, the very word 
leads us to think that there mufl be fome image in the mind of the 
thing conceived. It is evident, that thefe notions are drawn from 
fome fimilitude conceived between body and mind, and between 
the properties of body and the operations of mind. 

To illuflrate more fully that analogical reafoning from a fuppo-' ■ 
fed fimilitude of mind to body, which I conceive to be the mofl' 
fruitful fource of error with regard to the operations of our minds, 
I Ihall give an inflance of it. 

When a man is urged by contrary motives, thofe on one hand 
inciting him to do fome adlion, thofe on the other to forbear it ; 
he deliberates about it, and at lafl refolves to do it, or not to do it. 
The contrary motives are here compared to the weights in the op- 
pofite fcale& of a balance ; and there is not perhaps any inftance 
that can be named of a more ftriking analogy between body and 
mind. Hence the phrafes of weighing motives, of deliberating 
upon adtions, are common to all languages. 

From this analogy, fome Philofophers draw very important con- 
clufions. They fay, that, as the balance cannot incline to one fide 
more than the other, when the oppofite weights are equal ; fo a 
man cannot pofTibly determine himfelf if the motives on both 
hands are equal j and as the balance maft necelFarily turn to that 


S6 E S S A Y I. 

CHAP. IV. {JJe which has moft weight, fo the man mufl neceflarily be deter- 
mined to that hand where the motive is ftrongeft. And on this 
foundation fome of the fchoolmen maintained, that, if a hungry 
afs were placed between two bundles of hay equally inviting, the 
bead muft ftand ftill and ftarve to death, being unable to turn to 
either, becaufe there are equal motives to both. This is an in- 
ftance of that analogical reafoning, which I conceive ought never 
to be trufted : For the analogy between a balance and a man deli- 
berating, though one of the ftrongeft that can be found between 
matter and mind, is too weak to fupport any argument. A piece 
of dead inadive matter, and an adlive intelligent being, are things 
very unlike j and becaufe the one would remain at reft in a certain 
cafe, it does not follow that the other would be inadive in a cafe 
fomewhat fimilar. The argument is no better than this, that, 
becaufe a dead animal moves only as it is puflied, and, if pufhed 
with equal force in contrary directions, muft remain at reft ; there- 
fore the fame thing muft happen to a living animal ; for furely the 
fimilitude between a dead animal and a living, is as great as that 
between a balance and a man. 

The conclufion I" would draw from all that has been faid on ana- 
' logy, is, that, in our enquiries concerning the mind, and its ope- 
rations, we ought never to truft to reafonings, drawn from fome 
fuppofed fimilitude of body to mind ; and that we ought to be 
very much upon our guard, that we be not impofed upon by thofe 
analogical terms and phrafes, by which the operations of the mind 
are exprefTed in all languages. 




Of the proper Means of knowing the Op'rat'ions of the Mind. 

SINCE we ought to pay no regard to hypothefes, and to be very 
fufpicious of analogical reafoning, it may be afked from what 
fource mud the knowledge of the mind, and its faculties, be 
drawn ? 

I anfwer, the chief and proper fource of this branch of know- 
ledge is accurate refledlion upon the operations of our own minds. 
Of this fource we {hall fpeak more fully, after making fome re- 
marks upon two others that may be fubfervient to it. The firft of 
them is attention to the ftrudure of language. 

The language of mankind is expreffive of their thoughts, and 
of the various operations of their minds. The various operations 
of the under {landing, will, and pafTions, which are common to 
mankind, have various forms of fpeech correfponding to them 
in all languages, which are the {igns of them, and by which they 
are expre{red : And a due attention to the {igns- may, in many 
cafes, give con{iderable light to the things fignified by them. 

There are in all languages modes of fpeech, by which men {Ig- 
nify their judgment, or give their teflimony j by which they ac- 
cept or refufe ; by which they a{k information or advice ; by 
which they command, or threaten, or fupplicate ;. by which they 
■plight their faith in promifes or contradls. If fuch operations 
were not common to mankind, we fhould not find in all languages 
forms of fpeech, by which they are exprelTed. 

All languages, indeed, have their imperfedlions ; they can ne- 
ver be adequate to all the varieties of human thought; and there- 
fore things may be really di{lln6t in their nature, and capable of 
being dl{lingul{hed by the human mind, which are not diflingui{h- 

H cd 




58 ESSAY!. 

CHAP. V. e(j in common language. We can only expecl:, in the ftruflure of 
languages, thofe diftin(5llons which all mankind in the common 
bufmefs of life have occafion to make. 

There may be peculiarities in a particular language, of the caufes 
of which we are ignorant, and from which, therefore, we can draw 
no conclufion. . But whatever we find common to all languages, 
muft have a common caufe ; muft be owing to fome common no- 
tion or fentiment of the human mind. 

We gave fome examples of this before, and flVall here add ano- 
ther. All languages have a plural number in many of their nouns ; 
from which we may infer, that all men have notions, not of indi- 
vidual things only, but of attributes, or things which are common 
to many individuals ; for no individual can have a plural number. 

Another fource of information in this fubjedl, is a due attention 
to the courfe of human adlions and condu<5l. The actions of men 
are efFedls : Their fentiments, their paflions, and their affed^ions, 
are the caufes of thofe efFe(5ts ; and we may, in many cafes, form 
a judgment of the caufe from the effedl. 

The behaviour of parents towards their children gives fufficient 
evidence, even to thofe who never had children, that the parental 
afFedlion is common to mankind. It is eafy to fee, from the general 
condudl of men, what are the natural objedls of their efleem, their 
admiration, their love, their approbation, their refentment, and of 
all their other original difpofitions. It is obvious, from the con- 
du6l of men in all ages, that man is by his nature a focial animal; 
that he delights to aflbciate with his fpecies ; to converfe, and to 
exchange good offices with them. 

Not only the a(5lions, but even the opinions of men may fome- 
times give light into the frame of the human mind. The opinions 
of men may be confiidered as the effeds of their intellectual powers. 


as their adlions are the efFedts of their adlive principles. Even the CHAP. v. 
prejudices and errors of mankind, when they are general, mufb 
have fome caufe no lefs general ; the difcovery of which will throw 
fome light upon the frame of the human underftanding. 

I conceive this to be the principal ufe of the hiftory of philo- 
fophy. When we trace the hiftory of the various philofophical 
opinions that have fprung up among thinking men, we are led 
into a labyrinth of fanciful opinions, contradi«5lions, and abfurdi- 
ties, intermixed with fome truths ; yet we may fometimes find a 
clue to lead us through the feveral windings of this labyrinth: 
We may find that point of view which prefented things to the 
author of the fyflem, in the light in which they appeared to him. 
This will often give a confiftency to things feemingly contra- 
didlory, and fome degree of probability to thofe that appeared mod 

The hiftory of philofophy, confidered as a map of the intelledlual 
operations of men of genius, muft always be entertaining, and 
may fometimes give us views of the human underftanding, which 
could not eafily be had any other way. 

I return to what I mentioned as the main fource of information 
on this fubjedl ; attentive refledlion upon the operations of our own 

All the notions we have of mind, and of its operations, are, by 
Mr Locke, called ideas of reflexion. A man may have as diftindl 
notions of remembrance, of judgment, of will, of defire, as he has 
of any objedl whatever. Such notions, as Mr Locke juftly ob- 
ferves, are got by the power of refle<5lion. But what is this power 
of refle<flion ? It is, fays the fame author, " that power by which 
*' the mind turns its view inward, and obfervcs its own atlions 
" and operations." He obferves elfewhere, " That the under- 
" ftanding, like the eye, whilft it makes us fee and perceive all 

H 2 " other 

6o E S S A Y I. . 

CHAP. V. « other things, takes no notice of itfelf; and that it requires 
" art and pains to fet it at a diftance, and make it its own 
" objedl." Cicero hath exprefled this fentiment mofl beautifully. 
Tufc. I. 28. 

This power of the underftanding to make its own operations its 
object, to attend to them, and examine them on all fides, is the 
power of reflection, by which alone we can have any diftindl no- 
tion of the powers of our own, or of other minds. 

' '-This reflection ought to be diflinguiflied from confcioufnefs, 
with which it is too often confounded, even by Mr Locke. All 
men are confcious of the operations of their own minds, at all 
times, while they are awake ; but there are few who refled upon 
them, or make them objedls of thought. 

From infancy, till we come to the years of underfl:anding, we 
are employed folely about external objecfls. And, although the 
mind is confcious of its operations, it does not attend to them; its 
attention is turned folely to the external objects, about which thofe 
operations are employed. Thus, when a man is angry, he is con- 
fcious of his pafllon ; but his attention is turned to the perfon who 
offended him, and the circumft:ances of the offence, while the pat- 
fion of anger is not in the leaft the objedl of his attention. 

I conceive, this is fufiicient to fliew the difference between con- 
fcioufnefs of the operations of our minds, and refleiflion upon 
them ; and to fliew that we may have the former without any de- 
gree of the latter. The difference between confcioufnefs and re- 
fledlion, is like to the difference between a fuperficial view of an 
objecfl which prefents itfelf "to the eye, while we are engaged about 
fomething eKe, and that attentive examination which we give to 
an objedl when we are wholly employed in furveylng it. Attention 
is a voluntary a(f> ; it requires an adlive exertion to begin and to 
continue it ; and it may be continued as long as we will ; but con- 


fcioufnefs is involuntary and of no continuance, changing with CHAP. v. 
every thought. 

The power of refledlion upon the operations of their own minds 
does not appear at all in children. Men mud be come to fome 
ripenefs of underftanding before they are capable of it. Of all the 
powers of the human mind, it feems to be the laft that unfolds 
itfelf. Moft men feem incapable of acquiring it in any confider- 
able degree. Like all our other powers, it is greatly improved by 
exercife ; and until a man has got the habit of attending to the 
operations of his own mind, he can never have clear and diftincl 
notions of them, nor form any Heady judgment concerning them. 
His opinions mufl be borrowed from others, his notions confufed 
and indiflindl, and he may eafily be led to fwallow very grofs ab- 
furdities. To acquire this habit, is a work of time and labour, 
even in thofe who begin it early, and whofe natural talents are 
tolerably fitted for it ; but the difficulty will be daily diminifliing, 
and the advantage of it is great. They will thereby be enabled to 
think with precifion and accuracy on every fubjedt, efpecially on 
thofe fubjedls that are more abftradt. They will be able to judge 
for themfelves in many important points, wherein others mull 
blindly follow a leader. 

CHAP. vr. 

Of the Difficulty of attending to the Operations of our own Minds. 

THE difficulty of attending to our mental operations ought 
to be well underflood, and juflly eflimated, by thofe who 
would make any progrefs in this fcience ; that they may neither, 
on the one hand, expe<fl: fuccefs without pains and application of 
thought; nor, on the other, be difcouraged, by conceiving that the 
obftacles that lie in the way are infuperable, and that there is no 
certainty to be attained in it. I ihall, therefore, endeavour to point 


62 E S S A Y I. 

CHAP. VI out the caufes of this difficulty, and the efFedls that have arlfen 
from it, that we may be able to form a true judgment of both. 

1. The number and quick fucceflion of the operations of the 
mind make it difficult to give due attention to them. It is well 
known, that if a great number of objec^ls be prefented in quick 
fucceffion, even to the eye, they are confounded in the memory 
and imagination. We retain a confufed notion of the whole, and 
a more confufed one of the feveral parts, efpecially if they are ob- 
jedls to which we have never before given particular attention. No 
fucceffion can be more quick than that of thought. The mind is 
bufy while we are awake, continually paffing from one thought, 
and one operation, to another. The fcene is conftantly fhifting. 
Every man will be fenfible of this, who tries but for one minute to 
keep the fame thought in his imagination, without addition or va- 
riation. He will find it impoffible to keep the fcene of his imagi- 
nation fixed. Other objedts will intrude without being called, and 
all he can do is to rejedl thefe intruders as quickly as poffible, and 
return to his principal objed. 

3. In this exercife, we go contrary to habits which have been early 
acquired, and confirmed by long unvaried pra6lice. From infan- 
cy, we are accuftomed to attend to objedls of fenfe, and to them 
only ; and, when fenfible objedls have got fuch ftrong hold of the 
attention by confirmed habit, it is not eafy to difpoflefs them. 
When we grow up, a variety of external objedls folicits our atten- 
tion, excites our curiofity, engages our affections, or touches our 
paffions ; and the conftant round of employment, about external 
obje(5ts, draws off the mind from attending to itfelf ; fo that no- 
thing is more juft than the obfervation of Mr Locke before men- 
tioned, " That the underftanding, like the eye, while it furveys 
" all the objeds around it, comm9nly takes no notice of itfelf." 

3. The operations of the mind, from their very nature, lead 
the mind to give its attention to fome other objedt. Our fenfa- 



cions, as will be fhown afterwards, are natural figns, and turn our CHAP. VL 

attention to the things fignified by them ; fo much, that moft of 

them, and thofe the moft frequent and familiar, have no name in 

any language. In perception, memory, judgment, imagination, 

and reafoning, there is an objedl diftinft from the operation itfelf ; 

and, while we are led by a ftrong impulfe to attend to the objecfl, 

the operation efcapes our notice. Our paflions, affedlions, and all 

our adlive powers, have, in like manner, their objedls which en- 

grofs our attention, and divert it from the paflion itfelf. 

4. To this we may add a juft obfervation made by Mr Hume, 
Tliat, when the mind is agitated by any paflion, as foon as we 
turn our attention from the objedl to the pafTion itfelf, the paflion 
fubfides or vanifhes, and by that means efcapes our enquiry. This, 
indeed, is common to almoft every operation of the mind : When 
it is exerted, we are confcious of it ; but then we do not attend to 
the operation, but to its objedl. When the mind is drawn off from 
the objedl to attend to its own operation, that operation ceafes, 
and efcapes our notice. 

5. As it is not fufficient to the difcovery of mathematical truths, 
that a man be able to attend to mathematical figures ; as it is necef- 
fary that he fhould have the ability to diftinguifli accurately things 
that differ, and to difcern clearly the various relations of the quan- 
tities he compaVes ; an ability which, though much greater in thofe 
who have the force of genius than in others, yet even in them re- 
quires exercife and habit to bring it to maturity : So, in order to 
difcover the truth in what relates to the operations of the mind, 
it is not enough that a man be able to give attention to them ; he 
muft have the ability to diftinguifli accurately their minute differ- 
ences ; to refolve and analyfe complex operations into their fimple 
ingredients ; to unfold the ambiguity of words, which in this 
fcience is greater than in any other, and to give them the fame ac- 
curacy and precifion that mathematical terms have. For, indeed, 
the fame precifion in the ufe of words j the fame cool attention to 


64 ESSAY I. 

CHAP^ VI. f}je minute differences of things ; the fame talent for abftradtion 
and analyfing, which fits a man for the ftudy of mathematics, is no 
lefs neceffary in this. But there is this great difference between the 
two fciences, that the objedls of mathematics being things extei> 
nal to the mind, it is much more eafy to attend to them, and fix 
them fteadily in the imagination. 

The difficulty attending our enquiries into the powers of the 
mind, ferves to account for fome events refpedling this branch of 
philofophy, which deferve to be mentioned. 

While mofl branches of fcience have, either in ancient or in 
modern times, been highly cultivated, and brought to a confider- 
able degree of perfedion, this remains, to this day, in a very low 
fliate, and as it were in its infancy. 

Every fcience invented by men muft have its beginning and its 
progrefs ; and, from various caufes, it may happen that one fci- 
ence fliall be brought to a great degree of maturity, while another 
is yet in its infancy. The maturity of a fcience may be judged 
of by this : When it contains a fyflem of principles, and conclufions 
drawn from them, which are fo firmly eftabliihed, that, among 
thinking and intelligent men, there remains no doubt or difpute 
about them ; fb that thofe who come after may raife the fuper- 
flrudlure higher, but Ihall never be able to overturn what is al- 
ready built, in order to begin on a new foundation. 

Geometry feems to have been in its infancy about the time of 
TuALES and Pythagoras ; becaufe many of the elementary pro- 
pofitions, on which the whole fcience Is built, are afcribed to them 
as the inventors. Euclid's Elements, which were written fome 
ages after Pythagoras, exhibit a fyftem of geometry which de- 
ferves the name of a fcience ; and though great additions have 
been made by Appollonius, Archimedes, Pappus, and others 
among the ancients, and dill greater by the moderns j yet what 



was laid down in Euclid's Elements was never fee afide. It re- CHAP, vi . 
mains as the firm foundation of all future fuperftrudlures in that 

Natural philofophy remained in its infant ftate near two thou- 
fand years after geometry had attained to its manly form : For na- 
tural philofophy feems not to have been built on a liable founda- 
tion, nor carried to any degree of maturity, till the laft century. 
The fyftem of Des Cartes, which was all hypothefis, prevailed 
in the mod enlightened part of Europe till towards the end of 
laft century. Sir Isaac Newton has the merit of giving the form 
of a fcience to this branch of philofophy ; and it need not appear 
furprifing, if the philofophy of the human mind fhould be a cen- 
tury or two later in being brought to maturity. 

le has received great acceffions from the labours of feveral mo- 
dern authors ; and perhaps wants little more to entitle it to the 
name of a fcience, but to be purged of certain hypothefes, which 
have impofed on fome of the moft acute writers on this fubje<fl, 
and led them into downright fcepticifm. 

What the ancients have delivered to us concerning the mind, 
and its operations, is almoft entirely drawn, not from iaccurate re- 
flecflion, but from, fome conceived analogy between body and 
mind. And although the modern authors I formerly named have 
given more attention to the operations of their own minds, and by 
that means have made important difcoveries ; yet, by retaining 
fome of the ancient analogical notions, their difcoveries have been 
lefs ufeful than they might have been, and have led to fcepticifm. 

It may happen in fcience, as in building, that an error in the 
foundation fliall weaken the whole ; and the farther the building 
is carried on, this weaknefs fliall become the more apparent and 
the more threatening. Something of this kind feems to have hap- 
pened in our fyftcms concerning the mind. The acceflion they 

I have 

66 E S S A Y I. 

CHAP. vi. have received by modern difcoveries, though very important in it-* 
felf, has thrown darknefs and obfcurity upon the whole, and has 
led men rather to fcepticifm thnn to knowledge. This muft be 
owing to fome fundamental errors that have not been obferved j 
and when thefe are correifted, it is to be hoped, that the improve- 
ments that have been made will have their due effe<5l. 

The laft eflfed; I obferve of the difficulty of enquiries into the 
powers of the mind, is, that there is no other part of human 
knowledge, in which ingenious authors have been fo apt to run 
into flrange paradoxes, and even into grofs abfurdities. 

When we find Philofophei's maintaining that there is no heat in 
the fire, nor colour in the rainbow : When we find the graveft Philo- 
fophers, from Des Cartes down to Bifliop Berkeley, mufler- 
ing up arguments to prove the exiftence of a material worlds and 
unable to find any that will bear examination : When we find Bi- 
fliop Berkeley and Mr Hume, the acuteft Metaphyficians of the 
age, maintaining that there is no fuch thing as matter in the uni- 
verfe : That fun, moon, and ftars, the earth which we inhabit, 
our own bodies, and thofe of our friends, are only ideas in our 
minds, and have no exiftence but in thought : When we find the 
laft maintaining that there is neither body nor mind ; nothing in 
nature but ideas and impreffions, without any fubftance on which 
they are impreOed : That there is no certainty, nor indeed proba- . 
bility, even in mathematical axioms : I fay, when we confider 
fuch extravagancies of many of the moft acute writers on this fub- 
jc&y we may be apt to think the whole to be only a dream of fan- 
ciful men, who have entangled themfelves in cobwebs fpun out of 
their own brain. But we ought to confider, that the more clofe- 
ly and ingenioufly men reafon from falfe principles, the more ab- 
furdities they will be led into ; and when fuch abfurdities help to 
bring to light the falfe principles from which they are drawn, they 
may be the more eafily forgiven. 




Divifion of the Powers of the Mind. 

THE powers of the mind are fo many, fo various, and fo con- 
nedled and complicated in moft of its operations, that there 
never has been any divifion of them propofed which is not liable 
to confiderable objedlions. We fhall therefore take that general 
divifion which is the moft common, into the powers of under- 
flanding and thofe of will. Under the will we comprehend our 
adlive powers, and all that lead to adlion, or influence the mind to 
a6l ; fuch as, appetites, pafCons, afFedions. The underftanding 
comprehends our contemplative powers ; by which we perceive 
objedls ; by which we conceive or remember them ; by which we 
analyfe or compound them ; and by which we judge and reafon 
concerning them. 

Although this general divifion may be of ufe in order to our 
proceeding more methodically in our fubjedl, we are not to under- 
ftand it as if, in thofe operations which are afcribed to the under- 
ftanding, there were no exertion of will or acSlivity, or as if the 
underftanding were not employed in the operations afcribed to 
the will ; for I conceive there is no operation of the underftanding 
wherein the mind is not a6live in fome degree. We have fome 
command over our thoughts, and can attend to this or to that, of 
many objedls which prefent themfelves to our fenfes, to our me- 
mory, or to our imagination. We can furvey an object on this 
fide or that, fuperficially or accurately, for a longer or a ftiorter 
time ; fo that our contemplative powers are under the guidance 
and dire<5lion of the adlive ; and the former never purfue their ob- 
jedl without being led and dire(5led, urged or reftrained by the lat- 
ter : And becaufe the underftanding is always more or lefs diredl- 
ed by the will, mankind have afcribed fome degree of a<5livity to 

I 2 the' 

68 E S S A Y I. 

CHAP. VII. xhe niind in its intelledlual operations, as well as in thofe which 
belong to the will, and have cxprefTed them by aclive verbs, fuch 
as feeing, hearing, judging, reaibning, and the like. 

And as the mind exerts fome degree of av^vlty even in the ope- 
rations of underftanding, fo it is certain that there can be no ai5t 
of will which is not accom,panied' wich fome a£t of underftand- 
ing. The will muft have an obje6l, and that obje<5l muft be ap- 
prehended or conceived in the underftanding. It is therefore to 
be remembered, that in moft, if not all operations of the mind, 
both faculties concur ; and we range the operation under that fa- 
culty which hath the largefl Ihare in it. 

The intelledlual powers are commonly divided into fimple ap- 
prehenfion, judgment, and reafonlng. As this divifion has in its 
favour the authority of antiquity, and of a very general reception, 
it wovild be improper to fet ic afide without giving any reafon; 1 
fhall therefore explain it briefly, and give the reafons why I chufe 
to follow another. 

It may be obferved, that, without apprehenfion of the obje6ls, 
concerning which we judge, there can be no judgment; as little 
can there be reafoning without both apprehenfion and judgment : 
Thefe three operations, therefore, are not independent of each 
other. The fecond includes the firft, and the third includes both 
the firft and fecond : But the firft may be exercifed without either 
of the other two. It is on that account caWed Jimpk apprehenfion; 
that is, apprehenfion unaccompanied with any judgment about the 
objedl apprehended. This fimple apprehenfion of an objedl is, in 
common language, called having a notion^ or having a conception of 
the objedt, and by late authors is called having an idea of it. In 
fpeaking, it is exprefted by a word, or by a part of a propofition, 
without that compoficlon and ftru<fluie which makes a complete 
fentence ; as a man^ a man of for'.uni. Such words, taken by 
themfelvcs, fignify fimple apprehenfions. They neither affirm nor 

deny ; 


deny ; they imply no judgment or opinion of the thing fignificd C UAT. VII . 
by them, and therefore cannot be faid to be either true or falfe. 

The fecond operation in this diviiion is judgmott ; in which, 
fay the Philofophers, there muft be two objedls of thought com- 
pared, and fome agreement or difagreement, or, in general, fome 
relation difcerned between them ; in confequence of which, there 
is an opinion or belief of that relation which we difcern. This 
operation is exprefTed in fpeech by a propofition, in which fome 
relation between the things compared is affirmed or denied : As 
when we fay. All men are fallible. 

Truth and falfehood are qualities which belong to judgment 
only ; or to propofitions by which judgment is expreffed. Every 
judgment, every opinion, and every propofition, is either true or 
falfe. But words which neither affirm nor deny any thing, can have 
neither of thofe qualities ; and the fame may be faid of fimple ap- 
prehenfions, which are fignified by fuch words. 

The third operation is reafoning ; in which, from two or more 
judgments, we draw a conclufion. 

This divifion of our intelledlual powers correfponds perfectly 
with the account commonly given by Philofophers, of the fuccef-- 
five fteps by which the mind proceeds in the acquifition of its 
knowledge ; which are thefe three : F'lrjl^ by the fenfes, or by other 
means, it is furnifhed with various fimple apprehenfions, notions 
or ideas. Thefe are the materials which nature gives it to work 
upon ; and from the fimple ideas it is furnifhed with by nature, it 
forms various others more complex. Secondly^ by comparing its 
ideas, and by perceiving their agreements and difagreements, it 
forms its judgments. And, Injlly^ from two or more judgments, 
it deduces conclufions of reafoning. 

Now, if all our knowledge is got by a procedure of this kind, 


70 E S S A Y I. 

CHAP. VII . certainly the threefold divifion of the powers of underftanding, into 
fimple apprehenfion, judgment and reafoning, is the nnoft natural, 
and the moft proper, that can be devifed. This theory and that divi- 
fion are fo clofely connecfled, thatit is difficult to judge which of them 
has given rife to the other ; and they muft (land or fall together. 
But if all our knowledge is not got by a procefs of this kind ; if there 
are other avenues of knowledge befidcs the comparing our ideas, 
and perceiving their agreements and difagreements, it is probable 
that there may be operations of the underftanding which cannot be 
properly reduced under any of the three that have been explained. 

Let us confider fome of the moft familiar operations of our 
minds, and fee to which of the three they belong. I begin with 
confcioufnefs. I know that I think, and this of all knowledge is 
the moft certain. Is that operation of my mind, which gives me 
this certain knowledge, to be called fimple apprehenfion ? No, fure- 
ly. Simple apprehenfion neither affirms nor denies. It will not be 
faid that it is by reafoning that I know that I think. It remains, 
therefore, that it muft be by judgment, that is, according to the ac- 
account given of judgment, by comparing two ideas, and perceiving 
the agreement between them. But what are the ideas compared ? 
They muft be the idea of myfelf, and the idea of thought, for 
they are the terms of the propofition / think. According to this ac- 
count then, firft, I have the idea of myfelf, and the idea of thought ; 
then, by comparing thefe two ideas, I perceive that I think. 

Let any man who is capable of refledlion judge for himfelf, 
whether it is by an operation of this kind that he comes to be con- 
vinced that he thinks ? To me it appears evident, that the convic- 
tion I have that I think, is not got in this way ; and therefore I 
conclude, either that confcioufnefs is not judgment, or that judg- 
ment is not rightly defined to be the perception of fome agreement 
or difagreement between two ideas. 

The perception of an objedl by my fenfes, is another operation of 



the underflandlng. I would know whether it be fimple apprehenfion, CHAP. Vir . 
or judgment, or reafoning. It is not fimple apprehenfion, becaufe I 
am perfuaded of the exiftence of the objedl as much as I could be by 
demonftration. It is not judgment, if by judgment be meant the 
comparing ideas, and perceiving their agreements or difagreements. 
It is not reafoning, becaufe" thofe who cannot reafon can perceive. 

I find the fame difficulty in claffing memory under any of the 
operations mentioned. 

There is not a more fruitful fource of error in this branch of 
philofophy, than divifions of things which are taken to be com- 
plete when they are not really fo. To make a perfedl divifion of 
any clafs of things, a man ought to have the whole under his 
view at once. But the greateft capacity very often is not fufficient 
for this. Some thing is left out which did not come under the 
Philofopher's view when he made his divifion : And to fuit this 
to the divifion, it muft be made what nature never made it. 
This has been fo common a fault of Philofophers, that one who 
would avoid error ought to be fufpicious of divifions, though 
long received, and of great authority, efpecially when they are 
grounded on a theory that may be called in queftion. In a fubjedl 
imperfectly known, we ought not to pretend to perfedl divifions, 
but to leave room for fuch additions or alterations as a more per- 
fe(5l view of the fubjedl may afterwards fuggeft. 

I fhall not, therefore, attempt a complete enumeration of the 
powers of the human underftanding. I Ihall only mention thofe 
which I propofe to explain, and they are the following : 

ly?, The powers we -have by means of our external fenfes. ^dly. 
Memory, '^dly^ Conception, /^hly^ The powers of refolving and 
analyfing complex objects, and compounding thofe that are more 
fimple. f/i'/j'. Judging. 6/Z'/)', Reafoning. ']thly^ Talte. 8//&/k, 
Moral Perceptioia ; and, lajl of all, Confcioufnefs, 





Of /octal Operations of Mind. 

THERE is another divifion of the powers of the muid, which, 
though it has been, ought not to be overlooked by writers 
on this fubjedl, becaufe it has a real foundation in nature. Some 
operations of our minds, from their very nature, 2lXq facial^ others 

By the firft, I underftand fuch operations as neceflarily fuppofe 
an intercourfe with Tome other intelhgent being. A man may un- 
derftand and will ; he may apprehend, and judge, and reafon, 
though he fhould know of no intelligent being in the univerfe be- 
fides himfelf. But, when he afks information, or receives it; 
when he bears teftimony, or receives the teftimony of another ; 
when he afks a favour, or accepts one ; when he gives a command 
to his fervant, or receives one from a fuperior : when he plights 
his faith in a promife or contradl ; thefe are adls of focial inter- 
courfe between intelligent beings, and can have no place in foli- 
tude. They fuppofe imderftanding and will; but they fuppofe 
fomething more, which is neither underftanding nor will ; that is, 
fociety with other intelligent beings. They may be called intellec- 
tual, becaufe they can only be in intellectual beings: But they are 
neither fimple apprehenfion, nor judgment, nor reafoning, nor are 
they any combination of thefe operations. 

To aik a queftion, is as fimple an operation as to judge or to rea- 
fon; yet it is neither judgment, nor reafoning, nor fimple appre- 
henfion, nor is it any compofition of thefe. Teftimony is neither 
fimple apprehenfion, nor judgment, nor reafoning. The fame may 
be faid of a promife, or of a contradl. Thefe adts of mind are 
perfedly underftood by every man of common underftanding ; 
but, when Philofophers attempt to bring them within the pale of 
their divifions, by analyfing them, they find inexplicable myfte- 



ries, and even contradiftlons, in them. One may fee an inftance CHAP.viir. 
of this, of many that might be mentioned, in Mr Htjme's En- 
quiry concerning the principles of morals, fed. 3. part 2. note, near 
the end. 

The attempts of Philofophers to reduce the focial operations un- 
der the common philofophical divifions, refemble very much the 
attempts of fome Philofophers to reduce all our focial affedlions to 
certain modifications of felf-love. The Author of our being in- 
tended us to be focial beings, and has, for that end, given us fo- 
cial intelle<5lual pow^ers, as well as focial afFecflions. Both are origi- 
nal parts of our conftitution, and the exertions of both no lefs natu- 
ral than the exertions of thofe powers that are folitary and felfifli. 

Our focial intelledlual operations, as well as our focial afFedlions, 
appear very early in life, before we are capable of reafoning j yet 
both fuppofe a convi<5lion of the exiflence of other intelligent be- 
ings. When a child afks a queftion of his nurfe, this ad of his 
mind fuppofes not only a defire to know what he afks ; it fuppofes 
likewife a convidlion that the nurfe is an intelligent being, to whom 
he' can communicate his thoughts, and who can communicate her 
thoughts to him. How he came by this convidtion fo early, is a • 

queftion of fome importance in the knowledge of the human mind, 
and therefore worthy of the confideration of Philofophers. But 
they feem to have given no attention either to this early convidion, 
or to thofe operations of mind which f lappofe it. Of this we Ihall 
have occalion to treat afterwards. 

All languages are fitted to exprefs the focial as well as the foli- 
tary operations of the mind. It may indeed be affirmed, that, to 
exprefs the former, is the primary and dired intention of lan- 
gnage. A man, who had no intercourfe with any other intelligent 
being, would never think of language. He would be as mute as 
the beafts of the field ; even more fo, becaufe they have fome de- 
gree of focial intercourfe with one another, and fome of them 

K with 

74 ESSAY I. 

CHAr.viti . ^jf)-, man. When language is once learned, it may be ufeful even 
in our folitary meditations ; and, by clothing our thoughts with 
words, we may have a firmer hold of them. But this was not its 
firlt intention ; and the ftrudlure of every language flaews that it is 
not intended folely for this purpofe. 

In every language, a quefliion, a command, a promlfe, which 
are focial adts, can be exprefTed as eafily and as properly as judg- 
ment, which is a folitary adl. The expreflion of the laft has been 
honoured with a particular name ; it is called a propofition ; it has 
been an obje<5l of great attention to Philofophers ; it has been 
analyfed into its very elements of fubjecH:, predicate, and copula. 
All the various modifications of thefe, and of propofitions 
which are compounded of them, have been anxioufly examined 
in many voluminous tradts. The expreflion of a queflion, of a 
command, or of a promife, is as capable of being analyfed as 
a propofition is ; but we do not find that this has been attempt- 
ed ; we have not fo much as given them a name different from the 
operations which they exprefs. 

Why have fpeculative men laboured fo anxioufly to analyfe onr 
folitar;y operations, and given fo little attention to the focial ? 1 
know no other reafon but this, that, in the divifions that have 
been made of the mind's operations, the focial have been omitted, 
and thereby thrown behind the curtain. 

In all languages, the fecond perfon of verbs, the pronoun of the 
fecond perfon, and the vocative cafe in nouns, are appropriated to 
the exprefTion of focial operations of mind, and could never have 
had place in language but for this purpofe : Nor is it a good argu- 
ment againfl this obfervation, that, by a rhetorical figure, we 
fometimes addrefs perfons that are abfent, or even inanimated be- 
ings, in the fecond perfon. For it ought to be remembered, that 
all figurative ways of ufing words or phrafes fuppofe a natural and 
literal meaning of them. 







Of the Organs of Senfe. 

OF all the operations of our minds, the perception of external 
obje(5ls is the mod familiar. The fenfes come to maturity 
even in infancy, when other powers have not yet fprung up. They 
are common to us with brute animals, and furnifli us with the ob- 
je6ls about which our other powers are the mod frequently em- 
ployed. We find it eafy to attend to their operations ; and becaufe 
they are familiar, the names which properly belong to them are 
applied to other powers, which are thought to refemble them ; for 
thefe reafons they claim to be firft confidered. 

The perception of external objedls is one main link of that my- 
fterious chain which connecfls the material world v/ith the intellec- 
tual. We (hall find many things in this operation unaccountable ; 
fufficient to convince us, that we know but little of our own frame; 
and that a perfed: comprehenfion of our mental powers, and of the 
manner of their operation, is beyond the reach of our underflanding. 

In perception there are impreflions upon the organs of fenfe, 
the nerves, and brain, which, by the laws of our nature, are fol- 
lowed by certain operations of mind. Thefe two things are apt 
to be confounded; but ought mofl: carefully to be diftinguifhed. 
Some Philolbphcrs, without good reafon,' have concluded, that the 

K 2 imprcfiions 


CHAP. I. impreflions made on the body are the proper efficient caufe of per- 
ception. Others, with as Httle reafon, have concluded, that im- 
preffions are made on the mind fimilar to thofe made on the body. 
From thefe miftakeS many others have arifen. The wrong notions 
men have ralhly taken up with regard to the fenfes, have led to 
wrong notions with regard to other powers which are conceived 
to i-efemble them. Many important pq-yvers of mind have, efpe- 
cially of late, been called internal fenfes^ from a fuppofed refem- 
blance to the external ; fuch as, the fenfe of beauty, the fenfe of 
harmony, the moral fenfe. And it is to be apprehended, that er- 
rors, with regard to the external, have, from analogy, led to fimi- 
lar errors with regard to the internal ; it is therefore of fome con- 
fequence, even with regard to other branches of our fubjed, to 
have jull notions concerning the external fenfes. 

in 'order to this, we fliall begin with fome obfervations on the 
organs of fenfe, and on the impreffions which in perception ar^ 
made upon them, and upon the nerves and brain. 

We perceive no external obje(5l, but by means of certain bodily 
organs which God has given us for that purpofe. The Supreme 
Being who made us, and placed us in this world, hath given us 
fuch powers of mind as he faw to be fuited to our flate and rank 
in his creation. He has given us the power of perceiving many 
objedls around us, the fun, moon, and flars, the earth and fea, 
and a variety of animals, vegetables, and inanimate bodies. But 
our power of perceiving thefe objefls is limited in various ways, 
and particularly in this ; that without the organs of the feveral 
fenfes, we perceive no external objedl. We cannot fee without 
eyes, nor hear without ears : It is not only necelTary that we fhould 
have thefe organs, but that they ftiould be in a found and natural 
ftate. There are many diforders of the eye that caufe total blind- 
nefs ; others that impair the powers of vifion, without deftroying 
it altogether ; and the fame may be laid of the organs of all the 
other fenfes. 



All this is fo well known from experience, that it needs no chap. i. 
proof; but it ought to be obferved, that we know it from experi- 
ence only. We can give no reafon for it, but that fuch is the will 
of our Maker. No man can fhew it to be impoflible to the Su- 
preme Being to have.given us the power of perceiving external 
objedls without fuch organs. We have reafon to believe, that 
when we put off thefe bodies, and all the organs belonging to 
tliem, our perceptive powers fhall rather be improved than de- 
ftroyed or impaired. We have reafon to believe, that the Supreme 
Being perceives every thing in a much more perfect manner than 
we do, without bodily organs. We have reafon to believe, that 
there are other created beings endowed with powers of perception 
more perfe(5l and more extenfive than ours, without any fuch or- 
gans as we find neceffary. 

We ought not, therefore, to conclude, that fuch bodily organs 
are, in their own nature, neceflary to perception ; but rather, that, 
by the will of God, our power of perceiving external objedls is 
limited and circumfcribed by our organs of fenfe ; fo that we per- 
ceive obje<5ls in a certain manner, and in certain circumflances, 
and in no other. 

If a man was (hut up in a dark room, fo that he could fee no- 
thing but through one fmall hole in the fliutter of a window, 
Would he conclude, that the hole was the caufe of his feeing, and 
that it is impoffible to fee any other way ? Perhaps, if he had ne- 
ver in his life feen but in this way, he might be apt to think fb ; 
but the conclufion is ralh and groundlefs. He fees, becaufe God 
has given him the power of feeing ; and he fees only through this 
fmall hole, becaufe his power of feeing is circumfcribed by impe- 
diments on all other hands. 

Another neceflary caution in this matter is, that we ought not 
to confotmd the organs of perception with the being that perceives. 
Perception muft be the ad of fome being that perceives. The eye 


78 E S S A Y ir. 

CH AP. I. is not that which fees ; it is only the organ by which we fee. The 
ear is not that which hears ; but the organ by which we hear ; 
and fo of the reft. 

A man cannot fee the Satellites of Jupiter but by a telefcope. 
Does he conclude from this, that it is the telefcope that fees thofe 
ftars ? By no means ; fuch a conclufion would be abfurd. It is no 
lefs abfurd to conclude, that it is the eye that fees, or the ear that 
hears. The telefcope is an artificial organ of fight, but it fees 
not. The eye is a natural organ of fight, by which we fee ; but 
the natural organ fees as little as the artificial. 

The eye is a machine moft admirably contrived for refradling 
the rays of light, and forming a diftind pidlure of objeds upon 
the retina ; but it fees neither the objed nor the picflure. It can 
form the pidure after it is taken out of the head ; but no vifion 
enfues. Even when it is in its proper place, and perfeflly found, 
it is well known that an obftrudlion in the optic nerve takes away 
vifion, though the eye has performed all that belongs to it. 

If any thing more were neceflary to be faid on a point fo evi- 
dent, we might obferve, that if the faculty of feeing were in the 
eye, that of hearing in the ear, and fo of the other fenfes, the ne- 
ceflary confequence of this would be, that tlie thinking principle, 
which I call myfelf, is not one, but many. But this is contrary to 
the irrefiftible convidlion of every man. When I fay, I fee, I hear, 
I feel, I remember, this implies that it is one and the fame felf that 
performs all thefe operations ; and as it would be abfurd to fay, 
that my memory, another man's imagination, and a third man's rea- 
ibn, may make one individual intelligent being, it would be equally 
abfurd to fay, that one piece of matter feeing, another hearing, 
and a third feeling, may make one and the fame percipient being. 

Thefe fentiments are not new ; they have occurred to thinking 
incn from early ages. Cicero, in his Tufculan Queftions, lib. i, 



chap. 20. has exprelTed them very diftindly. Thofe who chufe, CHAP. 11 . 
may confult the paiTage. 


Of the Imprejfions on the Organs^ Nerves^ and Brains. 

A Second law of our nature regarding perception is, that we per- 
ceive no objecft, unlefs fome impreffion is made upon the or- 
gan of fenfe, either by the immediate application of the objedl, or 
by fome medium which paffes between the obje(5l and the organ. 

In two of our fenfes, to wit, touch and tajie^ there muft be an 
immediate application of the objecft to the organ. In the other 
three, the objedl is perceived at a diftance, but ftill by means of a 
medium, by which fome impreffion is made upon the organ. 

The effluvia of bodies drawn into the noftrils with the breath, 
are the medium of fmell ; the undulations of the air, are the me- 
dium of hearing ; and the rays of light paffing from villble obje(5ls 
to the eye, are the medium of fight. We fee no obje(5l, unlefs rays 
of light come from it to the eye. We hear not the found of any 
body, unlefs the vibrations of fome elaftic medium, occafioned by 
the tremulous motion of the founding body, reach our ear. We 
perceive no fmell, unlefs the effluvia of the fmelling body enter 
into the noftrils. We perceive no tafte, unlefs the fapid body be 
applied to the tongue, or fome part of the organ of tafte. Nor do 
we perceive any tangible quality of a body, unlefs it touch the 
hands, or fome part of our bodies. 

Thefe are fa(5ts known from experience to hold univerfally and 
invariably, both in men and brutes. By this law of our nature, 
our powers of perceiving external objeds are farther limited and 
circumfcribed. Nor can we give any other reafon for this, than 


8o E S S A Y II. 

CHA P. II. jj^jjj. jj jg fj^g ^iw Qf Q^j. Maker, who knows beft what powers, and 
what degrees of them, are luited to our ftate. We were once in a 
ftate, I mean in the womb, wherein our powers of perception were 
more limited than in the prefent, and, in a future ftate, they may 
be more enlarged. 

It is llkewife a law of our nature, that, in order to our perceiving 
objedls, the impreffions made upon the organs of fenfe nauft be 
communicated to the nerves, and by them to the brain. This is 
perfecflly known to thofe who know any thing of anatomy. 

The nerves are fine cords, which pafs from the brain, or from 
the fpinal marrow, which is a produdlion of the brain, to all parts 
of the body, dividing into fmaller branches as they proceed, un- 
til at laft they efcape our eye-fight : And it is found by experience 
that all the voluntary and involuntary motions of the body ai*e 
performed by their means. When the nerves that ferve any 
limb, are cut, or tied hard, we have then no more power to move 
that limb than if it was no part of the body. 

As there are nerves that ferve the mufcular motions, fo there are 
others that ferve the feveral fenfes ; and as without the former we 
cannot move a limb, fo without the latter we can have no per- 

This train of machinery the wifdom of God has made necef- 
fary to our perceiving objedls. Various parts of the body concur 
to it, and each has its own fundion. Fir/i, the obje6l either im- 
mediately, or by fome medium, muft make an impreflion on the 
organ. The organ ferves only as a medium, by which an impref- 
fion is made on the nerve ; and the nerve ferves as a medium to 
make an impreflion upon the brain. Here the material part ends; 
at leaft we can trace it no farther j the reft is all intelledual. 

The proof of thefe imprefllons upon the nerves and brain in 



perception is this, That, from many obfervations and experiments, chap. ii. 

it is found, that when the organ of any fenfe is perfedlly found, 

and has the impreffion made upon it by the objec^l ever fo ftrong- 

ly; yet, if the nerve which ferves that organ be cut or tied hard, 

there is no perception : And it is well known that diforders in the 

brain deprive us of the power of perception when both the organ 

and its nerve are found. 

There is therefore fufficient reafon to conclude, that, in percep- 
tion, the objedl produces fome change in the organ ; that the or- 
gan produces fome change upon the nerve ; and that the nerve 
produces fome change in the brain. And we give the name of an 
impreffion to thofe changes, becaufe we have not a name more 
proper to exprefs, in a general manner, any change produced in a 
body, by an external caufe^ without fpecifying the nature of that 
change. Whether it be prefTure, or attraction, or repulfion, or vi- 
bration, or fomething unknown, for which we have no name, ftill 
it may be called an impreffion. But, with regard to the particu- 
lar kind of this change or impreffion, Philofophers have never 
been able to difcover any thing at all. 

But, whatever be the nature of thofe impreffions upon the or- 
gans, nerves, and brain, we perceive nothing without them. Ex- 
perience informs that it isfo ; but we cannot give a reafon why ic 
is fo. In the conflitution of man, perception, by fixed laws of 
nature, is connecSled with thofe impreffions ; but we can difcover 
no neceffary connection. The Supreme Being has feen fit to limit 
our power of perception ; fo that we perceive not without fucli im- 
preffions i and this is all we know of the matter. 

This, however, we have reafon to conclude in general, that as 
the impreffions on the organs, nerves, and brain, correfpond ex- 
actly to the nature and conditions of the objecfls by which they 
are made ; fo our perceptions and fenfations correfpond to thofe 
impreffions, and vary in kind, and in degree, as they vary. 

L Without 


CHAP. 11. Without this exa(5l correfpondence, the information we recoive by 
our fenfes would not only be imperfe<5l, as it undovibtedly is, but 
would be fallacious, which we have no reafon to think it is. 

Hypothefes concerning the Nerves and Brain. 

WE are informed by Anatomlfts, that although the two coats 
which inclofe a nerve, and which it derives from the coats 
of the brain, are tough and elaftic ; yet the nerve itfelf has a very 
fmall degree of confiftence, being almoft like marrow. It has, 
however, a fibrous texture, and may be divided and fubdivided, 
till its fibres efcape our fenfes : And as we know i'o very little about 
the texture of the nerves, there is great room left for thofe who 
chufe to indulge themfelves in conjeiflure. 

The ancients conjectured that the nervous fibres are fine tubes, 
filled with a very fubtile fpirlt or vapour, which they called ani- 
mal fpir its. That the brain is a gland, by which the animal fpi- 
rits are fecreted from the finer part of the blood, and their conti- 
nual wafte repaired ; and that it is by thefe animal fpirits that the 
nerves perform their fun<5lions. Des Cartes has fliown how, by 
thefe animal fpirits going and returning in the nerves, mufcular 
motion, perception, memory, and imagination, are efFedted. All 
this he has defcribed as diftindlly as if he had been an eye-witnefs 
of all thofe operations. But it happens, that the tubular ftrudlure 
of the nerves was never perceived by the human eye, nor fliewn 
by the niceft injed^ions ; and all that has been faid about animal 
fpirits through more than fifteen centuries, is mere conjetflure. 

Dr Briggs, who was Sir Isaac Newton's mafler in anatomy, 
was the firft, as far as I know, who advanced a new fyftem con- 



cerning the nerves. He conceived them to be folid filaments of CHAP. iir. 
prodigious tenuity ; and this opinion, as it accords better with ob- 
fervation, feems to have been miore generally received fince his 
time! As to the manner of performing their office, Dr Briggs 
thought, that, like mufical cords, they have vibrations differing 
according to their length and tenfion. They feem, however, very 
unfit for this purpofe, on account of their want of tenacity, their 
moifture, and being through their whole length in contadl with 
moift fubftances : So that, although Dr Briggs wrote a book up- 
on this fyftem, called Nova Viftonis Theoria^ it feems not to have 
been much followed. 

Sir Isaac Newton, in all his philofophical writings, took great 
care to diftinguifh his do(5lrines, which he pretended to prove by 
juft indu(5lion, from his conjedlures, which were to ftand or fall, 
according as future experiments and obfervations fliould eftabllfh 
or refute them. His conjectures he has put in the form of que- 
ries, that they might not be received as truths, but be enqui- 
red into, and determined according to the evidence to be found 
for or againft them. Thofe who miftake his queries for a 
part of his do(5lrine, do him great injuftice, and degrade him to 
the rank of the common herd of Philofophers, who have in all 
ages adulterated philofophy, by mixing conje<flure with truth, and 
their own fancies with the oracles of Nature. Among other que- 
ries, this truly great Philofopher propofed this, Whether there 
may not be an elaftic medium, or aether, immenfely more rare 
than air, which pervades all bodies, and which is the caufe of gra- 
vitation ; of the refra(flion and refledlion of the rays of light ; of 
the tranfmiffion of heat, through fpaces void of air ; and of many 
other phaenomena ? In the 23d query fubjoined to his Optics, he 
puts this queftion, with regard to the impreffions made on the nerves 
and brain in perception, Whether vifion is effeded chiefly by the 
vibrations of this medivim, excited in the bottom of the eye by the 
rays of light, and propagated along the folid, pellucid, and uni- 
form capillaments of the optic nerve ? And whether hearing is ef- 

J. 2 feded 

84 E S S A Y ir. 


fecfled by the vibrations of this or fbme other medium, excited by 
the tremor of the air in the auditory nerves, and propagated 
along the folid, pellucid, and uniform capillaments of thofe nerves? 
And fo with regard to the other fenfes. 

What Newton only propofed as a matter to be enquired into, 
Dr Hartley conceived to have fuch evidence, that, in his Ohftr- 
vations on Man^ he has deduced, in a mathematical form, a very 
ample fyftem concerning the faculties of the mind, from the doc- 
trine of vibrations, joined with that of aflbciation. 

His notion of the vibrations, excited in the nerves, is expreflecl 
in propofitions 4. and 5. of the firft part of his Obfervations on 
Man. " Propofition 4. External objedls imprefled on the fenfes, 
" occafion firll in the nerves on which they are imprefled, and 
" then in the brain, vibrations of the fmall, and, as one may fay, 
*' infinitefimal medullary particles. Prop. 5. The vibrations men- 
" tioned in the laft propofition are excited, propagated, and kept 
*' up, partly by the aether, that is, by a very fubtile elaftic fluid j 
" partly by the uniformity, continuity, foftnefs, and a6live powers 
" of the medullary fubftance of the brain, fpinal marrow, and 
" nerves." 

The modefty and diffidence with which Dr Hartley offers his 
fyftem to the world, by defiring his reader " to expedl nothing 
" but hints and conjectures in difficult and obfcure matters, and 
" a fliort detail of the principal reafons and evidences in thofe that 
" are clear ; by acknowledging, that he fliall not be able to execute, 
*' with any accuracy, the proper method of philofophifing, recom- 
" mended and followed by Sir Isaac Newton ; and that he will 
" attempt a flcetch only for the benefit of future enquirers," feem 
to forbid any criticifm upon it. One cannot, without reludlance, 
criticife what is propofed in fuch a manner, and with fo good in- 
tention ; yet, as the tendency of this fyftem of vibrations is to 
make all the operations of the mind mere mechanifm, dependent 



on the laws of matter and motion ; and as it has been held forth pH^^- ^'i- 
by its votaries, as in a manner demonjfrated, I fhall make fome re- 
marks on that part of the fyflem which relates to the impreflions 
made on the nerves and brain in perception. 

It may be oblerved in general, that Dr Hartley's work con- 
Cfts of a chain of propofitions, with their proofs and corollaries, 
digefted in good order, and in a fcientific form. A great part of 
them, however, are, as, he candidly acknowledges, conjedlures and 
hints only ; yet thefe are mixed with the propofitions legitimately 
proved, without any diflindlion. Corollaries are drawn from them, 
and other propofitions grounded upon them, which, all taken to- 
gether, make up a fyflem. A fyftem of this kind refembles a chain, 
of which fome links are abundantly flrong, • others very weak. 
The flrength of the chain is determined by that of the weakeft 
links ; for if they give way, the whole falls to pieces, and the 
weight, fupported by it, falls to the ground. 

Philofophy has been in all ages adulterated by hypothefcs ; that 
is, by fyftems built partly on fa<5ls, and much upon conjeilure. 
It is pity that a man of Dr Hartley's knowledge and candour 
Ihould have followed the multitude in this fallacious traifl, after 
exprefling his approbation of the proper method of philofpphifing, 
pointed out by Bacon and Newton. The laft confidered it as 
a reproach, when his fyftem was called his hypothefis ; and fays, 
with difdain of fuch imputation, Hypolhefes non fingo. And it is 
very ftrange that Dr Hartley fliould not only follow fuch a me- 
thod of philofophifing himfelf, but that he fhould dirciSl others 
in their enquiries to follow it. So he does in Propofition 87. 
Part 1. where he deduces rules for the afcertainment of truth, from 
the rule of falfe, in arithmetic, and from the art of decyphering ; 
and in other places. 

As to the vibrations and vibratiuncles, whether of -an elaftic 
aether, or of the infinitefimal particles of the brain and nerves, there 


86 E S S A Y II. 

CHAP. III. naay ^g fuch things for what we know ; and men may rationally 
enquire whether they can find any evidence of their exiftence ; but 
while we have no proof of their exiftence, to apply them to the 
folution of phajnomena, and to build a fyftem upon them, is, what 
I conceive, we call, building a caftle in the air. 

When men pretend to account for any of the operations of na- 
ture, the caufes afligned by them ought, as Sir Isaac Newton 
has taught us, to have two conditions, otherwife they are good for 
nothing. Firjl^ They ought to be true, to have a real exiftence, 
and not to be barely conjecflured to exift without proof. Secondly^ 
They ought to be fufficient to produce the efFedl. 

As to the exiftence of vibratory motions in the medullary fub- 
ftance of the nerves and brain, the evidence produced is this: 
F'lrjl^ It is obferved, that the fenfations of feeing and hearing, and 
fome fenfations of touch, have fome fliort duration and continu- 
ance. Secondly^ Though there be no direcl evidence that the fen- 
fations of tafte and fmell, and the greater part of thefe of touch, 
have the like continuance; yet, fays the author, analogy would 
incline one to believe that they muft refemble the fenfations of 
fight and hearing in this particular. 'Thirdly, The continuance of 
all our fenfations being thus eftabliflied, it follows, that external 
objedls imprefs vibratory motions on the medullary fubftance of 
the nerves and brain ; becaufe no motion, befides a vibratory one, 
can refide in any part for a moment of time. 

This is the chain of proof, in which the firft link is ftrong, being 
confirmed by experience; the fecond is very weak; and the third 
ftill weaker. For other kinds of motion, befides that of vibration, 
may have fome continuance, fuch as rotation, bending or unbend- 
ing of a fpring, and perhaps others which we are unacquainted 
with ; nor do we know whether it is motion that is produced in 
the nerves, it may be preflTure, attradlion, repulfion, or fomething 
we do not know. This indeed is the common refuge of all hypo- 



thefes, that we know no other way in which the phasnomena may CHAP. III. 
be produced, and therefore they mufl be produced in this way. 
There is therefore no proof of vibrations in the infinitdimal par- 
ticles of the brain and nerves. 

It may be thought that the exiflence of an elaftic vibrating jether 
ftands on a firmer foundation, having the authority of Sir Isaac 
Newton. But it ought to be obferved, that although this great 
man had formed conjedlures about this sether near fifty years be- 
fore he died, and had it in his eye during that long fpace as a fub- 
je6t of enquiry ; yet it does not appear that he ever found any con- 
vincing proof of its exiflence, but confidered it to the lafl as a 
queftion whether there be fuch an sether or not. In the premoni- 
tion to the reader, prefixed to the fecond edition of his Optics, 
anno 171 7, he exprefTes himfelf thus with regard to it: " Left any 
" one fhould think that I place gravity among the efTential proper- 
" ties of bodies, I have fubjoined one queftion concerning its 
" caufe ; a queftion, I fay, for I do not hold it as a thing efta- 
" bliflied." If, therefore, we regard the authority of Sir Isaac 
Newton, we ought to hold the exiftence of fuch an xther as a 
matter not eftablilhed by proof, but to be examined into by expe-' 
riments ; and I have never heard that, fince his time, any new 
evidence has been found of its exiflence. 

But, fays Dr Hartley, " fuppofing the exiflence of the aether, 
*' and of its properties, to be deftitute of all dire(fk evidence, ftill, 
" if it ferves to account for a great variety of phaenomena, it will 
" have an indiredl evidence in its favour by this means." There 
never was an hypothefis invented by an ingenious man which has 
not this evidence in its favour. The Vortices of Des Cartes, the 
Sylphs and Gnomes of Mr Pope, ferve to account for a great variety 
of phaznomena. 

When a man has, with labour and ingenuity, wrought up an hy- 
pothefis into a fyflem, he contrails a fondnefs for it, which is apt 


88> ESSAY II. 

CHAP. III. to warp the befl judgment. Tliis, I humbly think, appears re- 
markably in Dr Hartley. In his preface, he declares his appro- 
bation of the method of philofophifing recommended and followed 
by Sir Isaac Newton ; but having firft deviated from this me- 
thod in his pra<flice, he is brought at laft to juflify this deviation 
in theory, and to bring arguments in defence of a method diame- 
trically oppolite to it. " We admit, fiiys he, the key of a cypher 
*' to be a true one, when it explains the cypher completely." I an- 
fvver, To find the key requires an underflanding equal or fuperior 
to that which made the cypher. This inftance, therefore, will 
then be in point, when he who attempts to decypher the works 
of nature by an hypothefis, has an under (landing equal or fupe- 
rior to that which made them. The votaries of hypothefes have 
often been challenged to fliew one ufeful difcovery in the works 
of nature that was ever made in that way. If inflances of this 
kind could be produced, we ought to conclude that Lord Bacon 
and Sir Isaac Newton have done great difTervice to philofophy, 
by what they have faid againfl hypothefes. But if no fuch in- 
ftance can be produced, we mufl; conclude, with thofe great men, 
that every fyftem which pretends to account for the phaenomena 
of nature by hypothefes or conjecflure, is fpurious and illegitimate, 
and ferves only to flatter the pride of man with a vain conceit of 
knowledge which he has not attained. 

The author tells us, " that any hypothefis that has fo much 
" plaufibility as to explain a confiderable number of fa<5ls, helps 
" us to digefl thefe fafls in proper order, to bring new ones to light, 
" and to make experimenta cruets for the fake of future enquirers." 

Let hypothefes be put to any of thefe ufes as far as they can 
ferve. Let them fuggeft experiments, or dircd our enquiries j but 
let juft indudion alone govern our belief. 

" The rule of falfe affords an obvious and ftrong inftance of 
" the poffibility of being led, with precifion and certainty, to a 

" true 


*' true conclufion from a falfe pofition. And it is of the very eC- CHA P, ijr . 
" fence of algebra, to proceed in the way of fuppofition." 

This is true ; but, when brought to juftlfy the accounting for 
natural phsenomena by hypothefes, is foreign to the purpofe. 
When an unknown number, or any unknown quantity is fought, 
which mufl have certain conditions, it may be found in a fcienti- 
fie manner by the rule of falfe, or by an algebraical analyfis ; and, 
when found, may be fynthetically demonftrated to be the number 
or the quantity fought, by its anfwering all the conditions re- 
quired. But it is one thing to find a quantity which fhall have 
certain conditions ; it is a very different thing to find out the laws 
by which it pleafes God to govern the world and produce the 
phaenomena which fall under our obfervation. And we can then 
only allow fome weight to this argument in favour of hypothefes, 
when it can be fhewn that the caufe of any one phaenomenon in 
nature has been, or can be found, as an unknown quantity is, by 
the rule of falfe, or by algebraical analyfis. This, I apprehend, 
will never be, till the sera arrives, which Dr Hartley feems to 
foretell, " When future generations fhall put all kinds of evidences 
V and enquiries into mathematical forms ; and, as it were, reduce 
" Aristotle's ten Categories, and Bifhop Wilkin's forty Sunima 
*' Genera to the head of quantity alone, fo as to make mathematics, 
** and logic, natural hiftory, and civil hiftory, natural philofo- 
*' phy, and philofophy of all other kinds coincide omni ex parte" 

Since Sir Isaac Newton laid down the rules of philofophifing 
in our enquiries into the works of Nature, many Phifofophcrs have 
deviated from them in pradlice ; perhaps few have paid that re- 
gard to them which they deferve. But they have met with very 
general approbation, as being founded in reafon, and pointing out 
the only path to the knowledge of Nature's works. Dr Hartley 
is the only author I have met with who reafbns againfl them, and 
has taken pains to find out argviments in defence of the exploded 
method of hypothefis. 

M Another 


CHAP. in. Another condition which Sir Isaac Newton requires in the 
caufes of natural things affigned by Philofophers, is, that they be 
fufEcient to account for the pha^nomena. Vibrations, and vibra- 
tiuncles of the medullary fubftance of the nerves and brain, are 
^fligned by Dr Hartley to account for all our fenfations and 
ideas, and, in a word, for all the operations of our minds. Let us 
confider very briefly how far they ai'e fufficient for that pur- 

It would be injuflice to this author to conceive him a Mate- 
rialift. He propofes his fentiments with great candour, and they 
ought not to be carried beyond what his words exprels. He thinks 
it a confequence of his theory, that matter, if it can be endued with 
the moft fimple kinds of fenfation, might arrive at all that intelli- 
gence of which the human mind is pofTefled. He thinks that hia 
theory overturns all the arguments that are ufually brought for 
the immateriality of the foul, from the fubtilty of the internal 
fenfes, and of the rational faculty ; but he does not take upon him 
to determine whether matter can be endued with fenfation or no. 
He even acknowledges, that matter and motion, however fubtilly 
divided and reafoned upon, yield nothing more than matter and 
motion ftill ; and therefore he would not be any way interpreted' 
fo as to oppofe the immateriality of the foul. 

It would, therefore, be unreafonable to require that his theory 
of vibrations flaould, in the proper fenfe, account for our fenfations. 
It would, indeed, be ridiculous in any man to pretend that thought 
of any kind muft neceflarily refult from motion, or that vibrations 
in the nerves muft neceflarily produce thought, any more than 
the vibrations of a pendulum. Dr Hartley difclaims this way 
of thinking, and therefore it ought not to be imputed to him. 
All that he pretends is, that, in the human conftitution, there is 
a certain connecSlion between vibrations in the medullary fubftance 
of the nerves and brain, and the thoughts of the mind ; fo that 
the laft depend entirely upon the firft, and every kind of thought 



in the mind arifes in confequence of a correfponding vibration, or chap. iir. 
vibratiuncle in the nerves and brain. Our fenfations arife from 
vibrations, and our ideas from vibratiuncles, or miniature vibra- 
tions ; and he comprehends, under thefe two words of /en/ai ions 
and Ueasy all the operations of the mind. 

But how can we expedl any proof of the conne6lion between vi- 
brations and thought, when the exiftence of fuch vibrations was 
never proved. The proof of their connedlion cannot be ftronger 
than the proof of their exiftence : For as the author acknowledges, 
that we cannot infer the exiftence of the thoughts from the exift- 
ence of the vibrations, it is no lefs evident, that we cannot infer 
the exiftence of vibrations from the exiftence of our thoughts. 
The exiftence of both muft be known before we can know their 
connedlion. As to the exiftence of our thoughts, we have the evi- 
dence of confcioufnefs ; a kind of evidence that never was called 
in queftion. But as to the exiftence of vibrations in the medul- 
lary fubftance of the nerves and brain, no proof has yet been 

All therefore we have to expedl from this hypothefis, is, that, in 
vibrations confidered abftra(5lly, there fhould be a variety in kind 
and degree, which tallies fb exa<^ly with the varieties of the 
thoughts they arc to account for, as may lead us to fufped fome 
conne<5lion between the one and the other. If the divifions and 
fubdivifions of thought be found to run parallel with the divifions 
and fubdivifions of vibrations, this would give that kind of plau- 
fibility to the hypothefis of their connexion, which we commonly 
expec^l even in a mere hypothefis ; but we do not find even this. 

For, to omit all thofe thoughts and operations which the author 
comprehends under the name of tdcasy and which he thinks are 
connedled with vibratiuncles ; to omit the perception of external 
objeds, which he comprehends under the name of fenfations ; to 
omit the fenfations, properly fo called, which accompany our paC- 

M 2 fions 

92 ESSAY 11. 

CHAP. in. fions and affe<5lions, and to confine ourfelves to the fenfations 
which we have by means of our external fenlcs, we can perceive 
no correfpondence between the variety we find in their kinds and 
degrees, and that which may be fuppofed in vibrations. 

We have five fenfes, whofe fenfations differ totally in kind. 
By each of thefe, excepting perhaps that of hearing, we have a 
variety of fenfations, which differ fpecifically, and not in degree 
only. How many taftes and fmells are there which are fpecifically 
different, each of them capable of all degrees of tlrength and 
weaknefs? Heat and cold, roughnefs and fmoothnefs, hardnefs and 
foftnefs, pain and pleafure, are fenfations of touch that differ in 
kind, and each has an endlefs variety of degrees. Sounds have 
the qualities of acute and grave, loud and low, with all different 
degrees of each. The varieties of colour are many more than we 
have names to exprefs. How fhall we find varieties in vibrations 
correfponding to all this variety of fenfations which we have by 
our five fenfes only ? ; 

I know two qualities of vibrations in an uniform elaflic me- 
dium, and I know no more. They may be quick or flow in va- 
rious degrees, and they may be ftrong or weak in various degrees ; 
but I cannot find any divifion of our fenfations that will make 
them tally with thofe divifions of vibrations. If we had no other 
fenfations but thofe of hearing, the theory would anfwer well ; 
for founds are either acute or grave, which may anfwer to quick 
or flow vibrations ; or they are loud or low, which anfwer to 
' ftrong or weak vibrations. But then we have no variety of vibra- 

tions correfponding to the immenfe variety of fenfations which we 
have by fight, fmell, tafte, and touch. 

Dr Hartley has endeavoured to find out other two qualities 
of vibrations ; to wit, that they may primarily affedl one part of 
the brain or another, and that they may vary in their dire(5lion,. 
according as they enter by different external nerves ; but thefe 



leem to be added to make a number : Foi*, as far as we know, vi- CHAP. IIT . 
brations in an uniform elaftic fubflance fpread over the whole, 
and in all diredlions. However, that we may be liberal, we 
fhall grant him four different kinds of vibrations, each of them 
having as many degrees as he pleafes. Can he or any man reduce 
all our fenfations to four kinds ? We have five fenfes, and by each 
of them a variety of fenfations, more than fufficient to exhauft all 
the varieties we are able to conceive in vibrations. 

Dr Hartley, indeed, was fenfible of the difficulty of finding 
vibrations to fuit all the variety of our fenfations. His extenfive 
knowledge of phyfiology and pathology could yield him but a 
feeble aid ; and therefore he is often reduced to the neceffity of 
heaping fuppofition upon fuppofition, conjedlure upon conjedlure, 
to give fome credibility to his hypothefis ; and, in feeking out vi- 
brations which may correfpond with the fenfations of one fenfe, 
he leems to forget that thofe mufl be omitted which have been ap- 
propriated to another. 

Philofophers have accounted in fome degree for our various fen- 
fations of found, by the vibrations of elaftic air. But it is to be 
obferved,^/y?, That we know that fuch vibrations do really exift j 
and, fecondly^ That they tally exadly with the moft remarkable 
phaenomena of found. We cannot, indeed, fhow how any vi- 
bration fhould produce the fentation of found. This muft be re- 
folved into the will of God, or into fome caufe altogether un- 
known. But we know, that as the vibration is ftrong or weak, the 
found is loud or low. We know, that as the vibration is quick or 
flow, the found is acute or grave. We can point out that relation 
of fynchronous vibrations which produces harmony or difcord, and 
that relation of fucceffive vibrations which produces mefody : And 
all this is not conjedlured, but proved by a fufficient indudlion. This 
account of founds, therefore, is philofophical ; although, perhaps, 
there may be many things relating to found that we cannot account 
for, and of which the caufes remain latent. The conne(5lions defcribed 




CHAP.m. in this branch of philofophy are the work of God, and not the 
fancy of mea. 

If any thing (imilar to this could be fhown in accounting for 
all our fenfations by vibrations in the medullary fubftance of the 
nerves and brain, it would deferve a place in found philofophy. 
But, when we are told of vibrations in a fubftance, which no man 
could ever prove to have vibrations, or to be capable of them ; 
when fuch imaginary vibrations are brought to account for all our 
fenfations, though we can perceive no correfpondence in their va- 
riety of kind and degree to the variety of fenfations, the connec-" 
tions defcribed in fuch a fyftem are the creatures of human ima- 
gination, not the work of God. 

The rays of light make an imprefllon upon the optic nerves ; but 
they make none upon the auditory or olfa(5lory. The vibrations 
of the air make an impreflion upon the auditory nerves ; but none 
\ipon the optic or the olfa(5lory. The effluvia of bodies make an 
imprefllon upon the olfacftory nerves ; but make none upon the 
optic or auditory. No man has been able to give a fhadow of rea- 
fon for this. While this is the cafe, is it not better to confefs our 
ignorance of the nature of thofe imprefllons made upon the nerves 
and brain in perception, than to flatter our pride with the conceit 
.of knowledge which we have not, and to adulterate philofophy with 
the fpurious brood of hypothefes ? 


Falfe Conclufions drawn from the ImpreJJions before mentioned. 

SOME Philofophers among the ancients, as well as among the 
moderns, imagined that man is nothing but a piece of matter fo 
curioufly organifed, that the imprefllons of external objeds produce 
in it fenfation, perception, remembrance, and all the other opera- 


tlons we are confcious of. This foolifh opinion could only take its CHAP. IV . 
rife from obferving the conftant conne<5lion which the Author of 
Nature hath eftablilhed between certain imprefTions made upon our 
fenfes, and our perception of the objedls by which the impreffion 
is made ; from which they weakly inferred, that thofe impreffions 
were the proper efficient caufes of the correfponding perception. 

But no reafoning is more fallacious than this, that becaufe two 
things are always conjoined, therefore one muft be the caufe of 
the other. Day and night have been joined in a conftant fucceffion 
fince the beginning of the world ; but who is fo foolilh as to con- 
clude from this, that day is the caufe of night, or night the caufe 
of the following day ? There is indeed nothing more ridiculous 
than to imagine that any motion or modification of matter fliould 
produce thought. 

If one Ihould tell of a telelcope Co exacJlly made as to have the 
power of feeing ; of a whifpering gallery that had the power of 
hearing ; of a cabinet fo nicely framed as to have the power of me- 
mory; or of a machine fo delicate as ta feel pain when it was 
touched; fuch abfurdities are fo fhocking to common fenfe that 
they would not find belief even among favages ; yet it is the fame 
abfurdity to think that the impreffions of external objedls upon the 
machine of our bodies, can be the real efficient caufe of thought 
and perception. 

Faffing this therefore as a notion too abfurd to admit of reafon*- 
ing ; another conclufion very generally made by Philofophers, is». 
that in perception an impreffion is made upon the mind as well as 
upon the organ, nerves, and brain. Aristotle, as was before 
obferved, thought that the form or image of the objedV perceived, 
enters by the organ of fenfe, and ftrikes upon the mind. Mr Hume 
gives the name of impreffions to all ovir perceptions, to all our 
. fenfations, and even to the objcdls which we perceive. Mr Locke 
affirms very poficively, that th§ ideas of external objeds are produ- 

96 E S S A Y II. 

CHAi'. ^v . ced In our minds by impulfe, " that being the only way we can 
" conceive bodies to operate in." It ought, however, to be ob- 
ferved, in juftice to Mr Locke, that he retradled this notion in his 
firft letter to the Bilhop of Worcester, and promifed in the 
next edition of his Eflay to have that paffage recflified ; but either 
from forgetfulnefs in the author, or negligence in the printer, the 
paiTage remains in all the fubfequent editions I have feea. 

There is no prejudice more natural to man, than to conceive of 
the mind as having Ibme fimilitude to body in its operations. 
Hence men have been prone to imagine, that as bodies are put in 
motion by fome impulfe or impreffion made upon them by conti- 
guous bodies ; fo the mind is made to think and to perceive by 
fome impreflion made upon it, or fome impulfe given to it by 
contiguous objedls. If we have fuch a notion of the mind as 
Homer had of his gods, who might be bruifed or wounded with 
fwords and fpears, we may then underftand what is mieant by im- 
preffions made upon it by a body : But if we conceive the mind to 
be immaterial, of which I think we have very ftrong proofs, we 
fliall find it difficult to affix a meaning to imprejjtons made upon it. 

There is a figurative meaning of impreffions on the mind which 
is well authorifed, and of which we took notice in the obfervations 
made on that word ; but this meaning applies only to objedls that 
are interefting. To fay that an objedl which I fee with perfe<5t 
indifference makes an impreffion upon my mind, is not, as I ap- 
prehend, good Englifli. If Philofophers mean no more but that 
I fee the objedl, why fliould they invent an improper phrafe to 
exprefs what every man knows how to exprefs in plain Englifh ? 

But it is evident, from the manner in which this phrafe is ufed 
by modern Philofophers, that they mean not barely to exprels by 
it, my perceiving an objedl, but to explain the manner of perception. 
They think that the objedl perceived ads upon the mind, in fome 
way fimilar to that in which one body ads upon another, by ma- 


king an Impreffion upon it. The Impreflion upon the mind is con- 
ceived to be fomething wherein the mind is altogether paffive, and 
has fome efFedl produced in it by the objedl. But this is a hypo- 
thefis which contradicts the common fenfe of mankind, and which 
ought not to be admitted without proof. 

When I look upon the wall of my room, the wall does not a(5l 
at all, nor is capable of adling ; the perceiving it is an adl or ope- 
ration in me. That this is the common apprehenfion of mankind 
with regard to perception, is evident from the manner of exprefling 
it in all languages. 

The vulgar give themfelves no trouble how they perceive objects, 
they exprefs what they are confcious of, and they exprefs it with 
propriety ; but Philofophers have an avidity to know how we per- 
ceive objedls ; and conceiving fome iimilitude between a body that 
is put in motion, and a mind that is made to perceive, they are 
led to think, that as the body mufl receive fome impulfe to make 
it move, fo the mind muft receive fome impulfe or impreflion to 
make it perceive. This analogy feems to be confirmed, by obfer- 
ving that we perceive objed;s only when they make fome impref- 
fion upon the organs of fenfe, and upon the nerves and brain ; but 
it ought to be obferved, that fuch is the nature of body that it 
cannot change its ftate, but by fome force imprefled upon it. This 
is not the nature of mind. All that we know about it fhows it to 
be in its nature living and adlive, and to , have the power of per- 
ception in its conflitution, but dill within thofe limits to which it 
is confined by the laws of Nature. 

It appears, therefore, that this phrafe of the mind's having im- 
preflions made upon it by corporeal objedts in perception, is either 
a phrafe without any diftin<Sl meaning, and contrary to the pro- 
priety of the EnglHh language, or it is grounded upon an hypothefis 
which is deftitute of proof. On that account, though we grant 
tliat in perception there is an impreffion made upon the organ of 

N fenfe, 


98 E S S A Y II. 

CHAP, iv.^ fenfe, and upon the nerves and brain, we do not admit that the 
obje(5l makes any impreflion upon the mind. 

There is another conclufion drawn from the impreflions made 
upon the brain in perception, which I conceive to have no folid 
foundation, though it has been adopted very generally by Philofo- 
phers. It is, that by the impreflions made on the brain, images 
are formed of the obje(5l perceived ; and that the mind, being- 
feated in the brain as its chamber of prefence, immediately per- 
ceives thofe images only, and has no perception of the external 
objedl but by them. This notion of our perceiving external ob- 
jedls, not immediately, but in certain images or fpecies of them 
conveyed by the fenfes, feems to be the mod ancient philofophical 
hypothefis we have on the fubjedl of perception, and to have with 
fmall variations retained its authority to this day. 

Aristotle, as was before obferved, maintained, that the fpecies, 
images or forms of external obje«fls, coming from the objedl, are 
imprcfled on the mind. The followers of Democritus and Epi- 
curus held the fame thing, with regard to flender films of fubtile 
matter coming from the objedt, that Aristotle did with regard 
to his immaterial fpecies or forms. 

Aristotle thought every objedt of human underftanding enters- 
at firft by the fenfes ; and that the notions got by them are by the 
powers of the mind refined and fpiritualized, fo as at laft to be- 
come objed^s of the moft fublime and abftraded fciences. Plato, 
on the other hand, had a very mean opinion of all the knowledge 
we get by the fenfes. He thought it did not deferve the name of 
knowledge, and could not be the foundation of fcience ; becaufe 
the objedls of fenfe are individuals only, and are in a conftant 
flu(5tuation. All fcience, according to him, mufl be employed 
about thofe eternal and immutable ideas, which exifted before the 
obje6ts of fenfe, and are not liable to any change. In this there 
was an eflential difference between the fyftems of thefe two Philo- 



fbphersf The notion of eternal and immutable iddas, which Plato chap. iv. 
borrowed from the Pythagorean fchool, was totally rejecfled by 
Aristotle, who held it as a maxim, that there is nothing in the 
intelledl, which was not at firft in the fenfes. 

But, notwithftanding this great difference in thofe two ancient 
fyftems, they might both agree as to the manner in which we per- 
ceive objedls by our fenfes : And that they did fo, I think, is pro- 
bable; becaufe Aristotle, as far as I know, neither takes notice 
of any difference between himfelf and his mafler upon this point, 
nor lays claim to his theory of the manner of our perceiving objedls 
as his own invention. It is flill more probable from the hints 
which Plato gives in the feventh book of his Republic, concern- 
ing the manner in which we perceive the objedts of fenfe ; which 
he compares to perfons in a deep and dark cave, who fee not ex- 
ternal objedls themfelves but only their fhadows, by a light let into 
the cave through a fmall opening. 

It feems, therefore, probable that the Pythagoreans and Platonifls 
agreed with the Peripatetics in this general theory of perception ; 
to wit, that the objects of fenfe are perceived only by certain images, 
or fhadows of them, let into the mind, as into a camera obfcura. 

The notions of the ancients were very various with regard to the 
feat of the foul. Since it has been difcovered, by the improvements 
in anatomy, that the nerves are the inftruments of perception, and 
of the fenfations accompanying it, and that the nerves ultimately 
terminate in the brain, it has been the general opinion of Philofo^ 
phers that the brain is the feat of the foul ; and that flie perceives 
the images that are brought there, and external things only by 
means of them. • 

Des Cartes, obferving that the pineal gland is the oi\ly part 
of the brain that is fingle, all the other parts being double, and 
thinking that the foul muft have one feat, was determined by this 

N 2 to 



•CHAP.rv.^ to make that gland the foul's habitation, to which, by means of 
the animal fpirits, intelligence is brought of all objeds that afFed^ 
the fenles. 

Others have not thought proper to confine the habitation of the 
foul to the -pineal gland, but to the brain in general, or to fome 
part of it, which they call xhc fenforium. Even the great Newton 
favoured this opinion, though he propofes it only as a query, with 
that modefty which diftinguiflied him no lefs than his great ge- 
nius. " Is not, fays he, the fenforium of animals the place where 
" the fentient fubftance is prefent, and to which the fenfible fpe- 
** cies of things are brought through the nerves and brain, that 
" there they may be perceived by the mind prefent in that place? 
*• And is there not an incorporeal, living, intelligent, and omni- 
" prefent Being, who, in infinite fpace, as if it were in his fenfo- 
*' rium, intimately perceives things themfelves, and comprehends 
" them perfedlly, as being prefent to them ; of which things, that 
" principle in us, which perceives and thinks, difcerns only, ia 
" its little fenforium, the images brought to it through the organs 
« of the fenfes ?" 

His great friend Dr Samuel Clarke adopted the fame fentiment 
with more confidence. In his papers to Leibnitz, we find the fol- 
lowing paflages : " Without being prefent to the images of the 
" things perceived, it (the foul) could not poflibly perceive them» 
" A living fubftance can only there perceive where it is prefent, 
** either to the things themfelves, (as the omniprefent God is to 
" the whole univerfe), or to the images of things, (as the foul of 
" man is in its proper fenfory). Nothing can any more adl, or 
" be adled upon, where it is not prefent, than it can be where it 
" is not. We are fure the foul cannot perceive what it is not pre- 
" fent to, becaufe nothing can a€t, or be a(5ted upon, where it 
" is not." 

Mr Locke exprefles himfelf fo upon this point, that, for the 




mofl part, one would imagine, that he thought that the ideas, or CHAF. iv. 
images, of things, which he believed to be the immediate obje(5ls 
of perception, are impreffions upon the mind itfclf ; yet, in fome 
paflages, he rather places them in the brain, and makes them to be 
perceived by the mind there prcfent. " There are fome ideas, fays 
*' he, which have admittance only through one fenfe ; and . if the 
organs or the nerves, which are the conduits to convey them 
" from without to their audience in the brain, the mind's prefence 
" room, if I may fo call it, are fo difordered as not to perform 
'* their funcflion,- they have no poftern to be admitted bV, 

" There feems to be a conftant decay of all our ideas, even of 
" thofe that -are ftrnck deepeft. The pixflures drawn in our minds 
" are laid in fading colours. Whether the temper of the brain 
" makes this difference, that in fome it retains the charadlers 
" drawn on it like marble, in others like free-flione, and in others 
" little better than fand, I Ihall not enquire." 

From thefe paffages of Mr Locke, arid others of a like nature, 
it is plain, that he thought that there ^re images of external ob- 
jcdls conveyed to the brain. But whether he thought with Des 
Cartes and Newton, that the images in the brain are perceived 
by the mind there prefent, or that they are imprinted on the mind 
kfelf, is not fo evident. 

Now, with regard to this hypothefis, there afe three things that 
deferve to be confidered, becaufe the hypothefis leans upon them j 
and, if any one of them fail, it muft fall to the ground. The Jir/f 
is. That the foul has its feat, or, as Mr Locke calls it, its prefence 
room in the brain. The fecond^ That there are images formed 
in the brain of all the objecfls of fenfe. The thirds That the mind 
or foul perceives thefe images in the brain ; and that it perceives 
not external objects immediately, but only perceives them by 
means of thofe images. 


102 ESSAY 11. 

^^^^i As to (ktjlrji point, that the foul has its feat in the brain, this, 
furely, is not fo well eftablifhed, as that we can fafely build other 
principles upon it. There have been various opinions and much 
difputation about the place of fpirits ; whether they have a place ? 
and if they have, how they occupy that place ? After men had 
fought in the dark about thofe points for ages, the wifer part feem 
to have left off dlfputing about thenx, as matters beyond the reach 
of the human faculties. 

As to ^tfecond point, that images of all the objedls of fenfe are 
formed in the brain, we may venture to affirm, that there is no 
proof nor probability of this, with regard to any of the objedls 
of fenfe ; and that with regard to the greater part of them, it is 
words without any meaning. 

"We have not the leaft evidence that the image of any external 
objedl is formed in the brain. The brain has been difTejSled times 
innumerable by the niceft Anatomifts ; every part of it examined 
by the naked eye, and with the help of micro (copes ; but no veftige 
of an image of any external objedl was ever found. The brain 
feems to be the mod improper fubftance that can be imagined for 
receiving or retaining images, being a foft moill medullary fub- 

But how are thefe images formed ? or whence do they come ? 
Says Mr Locke, the organs of fenfe and nerves convey them from 
without. This is juft the Ariftotelian hypothefis of fenfible fpe- 
cies, which modern Philofophers hav£ been at great pains to re- 
fute, and which muft be acknowledged to be one of the moft un- 
intelligible j>arts of the Peripatetic fyftem. Thofe who confider fpe- 
cies of colour, figure, found, and fmell, coming from the objecfV, 
and entering by the organs of fenfe, as a part of the fcholaflic jar- 
gon, long ago difcarded from found philofophy, ought to have dif- 
carded images in the brain along with them. There never was a 
fli,adow of argument brought by any author, to fhow that an 



image of any external objedl ever entered by any of the organs of ,^^^^ ^^•. 

That external objedls make feme impreflion on the organs of 
fenfe, and by them on the nerves and brain, is granted ; but that 
thofe impreflions refemble the objedls they are made by, fo as that 
they may be called images of the objefls, is moft improbable. 
Every hypothecs that has been contrived fhews that there can be 
no fuch refemblance ; for neither the motions of animal fpirits, 
nor the vibrations of elaftic chords, or of elaftic aether, or of the 
infinitefimal particles of the nerves, can be fuppofed to refemble the 
objecls by which they are excited. 

We know, that, in vifion, an image of the vifible obje<fl is form- 
ed in the bottom of the eye by the rays of light. But we know 
alfo, that this image cannot be conveyed to the brain, becaufe the 
optic.nerve, and all the parts that furround it, are opaque and im- 
pervious to the rays of light ; and there is no other organ of fenfe 
in which any image of the objedl is formed. 

It is farther to be obferved, that, with regard to fome objecSls of 
fenfe, we may underftand what is meant by an image of them im- 
printed on the brain ; but, with regard to moft objeds of fenfe, 
the phrafe is abfolutely unintelligible, and conveys no meaning at 
all. As to objedls of fight, I underftand what is meant by aa 
image of their figure in the brain : But how flTall we conceive an 
image of their colour where there is abfolute darknefs ? And as to 
all other objedls of fenfe, except figure and colour, I am unable to 
conceive what is meant by an image of thent Let any man fay, 
what he means by an image of heat and cold, an image of hard- 
nefs or foftnefs, an image of found, or fmell, or tafte. The word 
hna^e, when applied to thefe objects of fenfe, has abfolutely no 
meaning. Upon what a weak foundation, then, does this hypo- 
thefis ftand, when it fuppofes, that images of all the objects of fenfe 




CHAP. IV. ^,c imprinted on the brain, being conveyed thither by the conduits 
of the organs and nerves. 

The third point in this liypothefis, is, That the mind perceives 
the images in the brain, and external objedls only by means of 
them. This is as improbable, as that there are fuch images to be 
perceived. If otrr powers of perception be not altogether fallaci- 
ous, the objecfls we perceive are not in our brain, but without us. 
We are fo far from perceiving images in the brain, that we do not 
perceive our brain at all ; nor would any man ever have known 
that he had a brain, if anatomy had not difcovered, by difletflion, 
that the brain is a conftituent part of the human body. 

To fum up what has been faid with regard to the organs of per- 
ception, and the impreffions made upon our nerves and brain. It 
is a law of our nature, eftabliftied by the will of the Supreme 
Being, that we perceive no external objecfl but by means of the 
organs given us for that purpofe. But thefe organs do not perceive. 
The eye is the organ of fight, but it fees not. A telefcope is au 
artificial organ of fight. The eye is a natural organ of fight, 
but it fees as little as the' telefcope- We know how the eye forms 
a pidlure of the vifible obje(5l upon the retina; but how this pi<flure 
makes us fee the objecl we know not ; and if experience had not 
informed us that fuch a pi(flure is neceflary to vifion, we fhould 
never have known it. We can give no reafon why the picture on 
the retina fliould be followed by vifion, while a like picture on 
any other part of the body produces nothing like vifion. 

It is likewife a law* of our nature, that we perceive not external 
objedls, unlefs certain impreffions be made by the objedl upon the 
organ, and by means of the organ upon the nerves and brain. But . 
of the nature of thofe Impreffions we are perfedlly ignorant ; and 
though they are conjoined with perception by the will of our 
Maker, yet it does not appear that they have any necelTary con- 
nexion with it in their own nature, far lefs that they can be the 


O F P E R C E P T I O N. 105 

proper efficient caufe of it. We perceive, becaufe God has given CHAP, v. 
us the power of perceiving, and not becaufe we have imprefhons 
from objecfts. We perceive nothing without thofe impreflions, be- 
caufe our Maker has Hmited and circumfcribed our powers of per- 
ception, by fuch laws of Nature as to his wifdom feemed meet, 
and fuch as fuited our rank in his creation. 

C H A P. V. 

Of Perception. 

IN fpeaking of the impreflions made on our organs in perception, 
we build upon fa(5ls borrowed from anatomy and phyfiology, 
for which we have the teflimony of our fenfes. But being now 
to fpeak of perception itfelf, which is folely an adl of the mind, 
we muft appeal to another authority. The operations of our minds 
are known not by fenfe, but by confcioufnefs, the authority of 
which is as certain and as irrefiflible as that of fenfe. 

In order, however, to our having a difl:in(5t notion of any of the 
operations of our own minds, it is not enough that we be confcious 
of them, for all men have this confcioufnefs : It is farther neceflary 
that we attend to them while they are exerted, and refledl upon 
them with care, while they are recent and frefh in our memory. 
It is necelTary that, by employing ourfelves frequently in this way, 
we get the habit of this attention and refle(5lion ; and therefore, 
for the proof of fadls which I fliall have occafion to mention upon 
this fubje(5l, I can only appeal to the reader's own thoughts, whe- 
ther fuch fadls are not agreeable to what he is confcious of in his 
own mind. 

If, therefore, we attend to that a6l of our mind which we call 
the perception of an external objed: of fenfe, we fliall find in it 

O thefe 

io6 E S S A Y n. 

CHA P, v.^ thcfe three things. Firjl^ Some conception or notion of the objedl 
perceived. Secondly, A ftrong and irrefiflible convidlion and belief 
of its prefent exiftence. And, thirdly, That this conviction and 
belief are immediate, and not the efifedl of reafoning. 

F'lrjl, It is impoiTible to perceive an obje^ without having fome. 
notion or conception of that which we perceive. We may indeed 
conceive an obje(fl which we do not perceive ; but when we per- 
ceive the object, we muft have fome conception of it at the fame 
time ; and we have commonly a more clear and fteady notion of 
the objedl while we perceive it, than we have from memory or 
imagination when it is not perceived. Yet, even in perception, 
the notion which our fenfes give of the objedl may be more or lefs 
clear, more or lefs diftindl, in all pofllble degrees. 

Thus we fee more diflin^dlly an obje(fl at a fmall than at a great 
diftance. An obje(5t at a great diftance is k&n more diftindlly in 
a clear than in a foggy day. An objecfl feen indiftindlly with the 
naked eye, on account of its fmallnefs, may be feen diflindtly with 
a microfcope. The objedls in this room will be feen by a perfon 
in the room lefs and lefs diftindlly as the light of the day fails ; 
they pafs through all the various degrees of diftindlnefs according 
to the degrees of the light, and at lafl, in total darknefs, they are 
not feen at all. What has been faid of the objedls of fight is fb 
eafily applied to the objedls of the other fenfes, that the application 
may be left to the reader. 

In a matter fo obvious to every perfon capable of refledlion, it 
is necefTary only farther to obferve, that the notion which we get 
of an objedt, merely by oiir external fenfe, ought not to be con- 
founded with that more fcientific notion which a man, come to 
the years of tinderftanding, may have of the fame objedl, by at- 
tending to its various attributes, or to its various parts, and their 
relation to each other, and to the whole. Thus the notion which 
a child has of a jack for roalling meat, will be acknowledged to be 



very different from that of a man who underftands its conflruclion, CHAP. V . 

and perceives the relation of the parts to one another, and to the 

whole. The child fees the jack and every part of it as well as the 

man: The child, therefore, has all the notion of it which fight 

gives ; whatever there is more in the notion which the man forms 

of it, mud be derived from other powers of the mind, which may 

afterwards be explained. This obfervation is made here only, 

that we may not confound the operations of different powers of 

the mind, which, by being always conjoined after we grow up to 

underftanding, are apt to pafs for one and the fame. 

Secondly f In perception we not only have a notion more or lefs 
<lifl:in<5l of the objedl perceived, but alfo an irrefiftible convidlion 
and belief of its exiftence. This is always the cafe when we are 
certain that we perceive it. There may be a perception fo faint 
and indiftincfl, as to leave us in doubt whether we perceive the 
bbjedl or not. Thus, when a ftar begins to twinkle as the light 
of the fun withdraws, one may, for a fliort time, think he fees it, 
without being certain, until the perception acquires fome Itrength 
and fteadinefs. When a fhip juft begins to appear in the utmoft 
verge of the horizon, we may at iirfl be dubious whether we per- 
ceive it or not : But when the perception is in any degree clear and 
fteady, there remains no doubt of its reality ; and when the reality 
of the perception is afcertained, the exiftence of the objedl perceived 
can no longer be doubted. 

By the laws of all nations, in the moft folemn judicial trials 
wherein mens fortunes aixl lives are at ftake, the fentence paffes 
according to the teftimony of eye or ear witneffefi of good credit. 
An upright judge will give a fair hearing to every objection that 
can be made to the integrity of a witnefs, and allow it to be pof- 
fible that he may be corrupted ; but no judge will ever fuppofe, 
that witneffes may be impofed upon by trufting to their eyes and 
ears : And if a fceptical counfel fliould plead againft the teftimony 
t>f the witneffes, that they had no other evidence for what they 

O 2 .declared, 

,o8 ESSAY ir. 

CHAP. V. declared, but the tcftimony of their eyes and ears, and that we ought 
not to put ib much faith in our fenfes, as to deprive men of hfe 
or fortune upon their teftimony; furely no upright judge would 
admit a plea of this kind. I believe no counfel, however fceptical, 
ever dared to offer fuch an argument ; and, if it was offered, it 
would be reje(5led with difdain. 

Can any Wronger proof be given, that it is the univerfal judg- 
ment of mankind that the evidence of fenfe is a kind of evidence 
which we may fecurely reft upon in the mofk momentous concerns 
of mankind : That it is a kind of evidence againfl: which we 
ought not to admit any reafoning ; and therefore, that to reafon 
either for or againft it is an infuk to common fenfc ? 

• The whole condu(5l of mankind, in the daily occurrences of life, 
as well as the folemn procedure of judicatories in the trial of 
caufes civi> and criminal, demonftrates this. I know only of two 
exceptions that may be oifcred againft this being the univerfal be- 
lief of mankind. 

The firft exception is that of fome lunatics who have been per- 
fuaded of things that feem to contradidl the clear teftimony of their 
fenfes. It is faid there have been lunatics and hypochondriacal per- 
fons, who ferioufly believed themfelves to be made of glafs ; and, 
in confequence of this, lived in continual terror of having their 
brittle frame fliivered into pieces. 

All I have to fay to this is, that our minds, in our prefent ftate, 
are, as well as our bodies, liable to ftrange diforders ; and as we 
do not judge of the natural conftitution of the body, from the dif^ 
orders or difeafes to which it is fubjedl from accidents, fo neither 
ought we to judge of the natural powers of the mind from its 
diforders, but from its found ftate. It is natural to man, and 
common to the fpecies, to have two hands and two feet ; yet I have 
feen a man, and a very ingenious one, who Was born without 



eithei* hands or feet. It is natural to man to have faculties fuperior CHAP, v. 
to thofe of brutes ; yet we fee fome individuals, whofe faculties are 
not equal to thofe of many brutes ; and the w^ifeft man may, by 
various accidents, be reduced to this flate. General rules that re- 
gard thofe virhofe intelledls are found, are not overthrown by in- 
ftances of men whofe intelle(5ls are hurt by any conftitutional or 
accidental diforder. 

The other exception that may be made to the principle we have 
laid down, is that of fome Philofophers who have maintained, that 
the tcftimony of fenfe is fallacious, and therefore ought never to 
be trufted. Perhaps it might be a fuflScient anfwer to this to fay, 
that there is nothing fo abfurd which fome Philofophers have not 
maintained. It is one thing to profefs a dodlrine of this kind, 
another ferioufly to believe it, and to be governed by it in the 
condu(5l of life. It is evident, that a man who did not believe his 
fenfes could not keep out of harm's way an hour of his life ; yet, 
in all the hiftory of philofophy, we never read of any fceptic that 
ever ftepped into fire or water becaufe he did not believe his fenfes, 
or that Ihowed in the conduct of life, lefs truft in his fenfes than 
other men have. This gives us juft ground to apprehend, that 
philofophy was never able to conquer that natural belief which 
men have in their fenfes ; and that all their fubtile reafonlngs 
againft this belief were never able to perfuade themfelves. 

It appears, therefore, that the clear and diftindl teftimony of our 
fenfes carries irrefiftible convidlion along with it, to every man in 
his right judgment. 

I obferved, thirdly. That this conviiSlion is not only irrefiftible, 
but it is immediate ; that is, it is not by a train of reafoning and 
argumentation that we come to be convinced of the exiftence of 
what we perceive ; we afk no argument for the exiftence of the 
objedl, but that we perceive it ; perception commands our belief 




CHAP. V. upon its own authority, and difdains to reft its authority upon any 
reafoning whatfoever. 

The convi(5lion of a truth may be irreilftible, and yet not ira- 
xnediate. Thus my convi(5lion that the three angles of every plain 
triangle are equal to two right angles, is irrefiftible, but it is not 
immediate : I am convinced of it by demonftrative reafoning. 
There are other truths in mathematics of which we have not only 
an irrefiftible, but an immediate convi(5lion. Such are the axioms. 
Our belief of the axioms in mathematics is not grounded upon ar- 
gument. Arguments are grounded upon them, but their evidence 
is difcerned immediately by the human underftanding. 

It is, no doubt, one thing to bave an immediate convi(5lion of 
a felf-evident axiom ; it is another thing to have an immediate 
Gonvidlion of the exiftence of what we fee ; but the convidlion is 
equally immediate and equally irrefiftible in both cafes. No man 
thinks of feeking a reafon to believe what he fees ; and before we 
are capable of reafoning, we put no lefs confidence in our fenfes 
than after. The rudeft favage is as fully convinced of what he fees, 
and hears, and feels, as the moft expert Logician. The conftitu- 
tion of our underftanding determines us to hold the truth of a ma- 
thematical axiom as a firft principle, from which other truths may 
be deduced, but it is deduced from none ; and the conftitution of 
our power of perception determines us to hold the exiftence of 
what we diftirn^ly perceive as a firft principle, from which other 
truths may be deduced, but it is deduced from none. What has 
been faid of the irrefiftible and immediate belief of the exiftence of 
objects diftinclly perceived, I mean only to affirm with regard to 
perfons fo far advanced in underftanding, as to diftinguifli objed:s 
of mere imagination from things which have a real exiftence. 
Every man knows that he may have a notion of Don Quixote, 
or of Garagantua, without any belief that fuch perfons ever 
exifted ; and that of Julius Cxi'ar and Oliver Cromwell, he has 
not only a notion, but a belief that they did really exift. But 



whether children, from the time that they begin to ufe their fenfes, CHAP. v. 

make a diftindion between things which are only conceived or 

imagined, and things which really exift, may be doubted. Until 

we are able to make this diftindlion, we cannot properly be faid 

to believe or to difbelieve the exiftence of any thing. The belief of 

the exiftence of any thing feems to fuppofe a notion of exiftence ; 

a notion too abftradl perhaps to enter into the mind of an infant. 

I fpeak of the power of perception in thofe that are adult, and of 

a found mind, who believe that there are fome things which do 

really exift ; and that there are many things conceived by them- 

felves, and by others, which have no exiftence. That fuch perfons 

do invariably afcribe exiftence to every thing which they diftincflly 

perceive, without feeking reafons or arguments for doing fo, is 

perfectly evident from the whole tenor of human life. 

The account I have given of our perception of external objedls, 
is intended as a faithful delineation of what every man come to 
years of underftanding, and capable of giving attention to what 
pafles in his ov/n mind, may feel in himfelf. In what manner 
the notion of external objedls, and the immediate belief of their 
exiftence, is produced by means of our fenfes, I am not able to 
fliow, and I do not pretend to fhow. If the power of perceiving 
external objedls in certain eircumftances, be a part of the original 
conftitution of the human mind, all attempts to account for it will 
be vain : No other account can be given of the conftitution of 
things, but the will of him that made them ; as we can give no 
reafon why matter is extended and inert, why the mind thinks, 
and is confcious of its thoughts, but the will of him who made 
both ; i'o I fufpecl we can give no other reafon why, in certain eir- 
cumftances, we perceive external objects, and in others do not. 

The Supreme Being intended, that we ftiould have fuch know- 
ledge gf the material objedls that furround us, as is neceftary in 
order to our fupplying. the wants of nature, and avoiding the dan- 
gers to which we are conftantly expofed ; and he has admirably 


112 • E S S A Y II. 

CHAP. V . fitted our powers of perception to this purpofe. If the intelligence 
we have of external objedls were to be got by reafoning only, the 
greatefl part of men would be deflitute of it ; for the greateft part 
of men hardly ever learn to reafon ; and in infancy and childhood 
no man can reafon : Therefore, as this intelligence of the objed^s 
that furround us, and from which we may receive fo much benefit 
or harm, is equally neceffary to children and to men, to the igno- 
rant, and to the learned, God in his wifdom conveys it to us in a 
way that puts all upon a level. The information of the fenfes is 
as perfecft, and gives as full convi(5lion to the moft ignorant, as to 
the moft learned. 


What it is to account for a Phanomenon in Nature. 

AN objedl placed at a proper diftance, and in a good light, while 
the eyes are fliut, is not perceived at all ; but no fooner do we 
open our eyes upon it, than we have, as it were by infpiration, a 
certain knowledge of its exiftence, of its colour, figure, and di- 
ftance. This is a fa6l which every one knows. The vulgar are 
fatisfied with knowing the fa6l, and give themfelves no trouble 
about the caufe of it : But a Philofopher is impatient to know how 
this event is produced, to account for it, or alTign its caufe. 

This avidity to know the caufes of things is the parent of all 
philofophy true and falfe. Men of fpeculation place a great part 
of their happinefs in fuch knowledge. Felix qui potuit rerum cog- 
nofcere caufas^ has always been a fentiment of human nature. But 
as in the purfuit of other kinds of happinefs men often miftake the 
road ; fo in none have they more frequently done it, than. in the 
philofophical purfuit of the caufes of things. 



It is a didate of common fenfe, that the caufes we affigii of CHA P, vi . 
appearances ought to be real, and not ficflions of human imagina- 
tion. It is likewife felf-evident, that fuch caufes ought to be ade- 
quate to the efFecfls that are conceived to be produced by them. 

That thofe who are lefs accuftomed to inquiries into the caufes 
of natural appearances, may the better underftand what it is to 
fliew the caufe of fuch appearances, or to account for them ; I fliall 
borrow a plain inftance of a phaenomenon or appearance, of which 
a full and fatisfadlory account has been given. The phaenomenon 
is this : That a ftone, or any heavy body, falling from a height, 
continually increafes its velocity as it defcends ; fo that if it acquire 
a certain velocity in one fecond of time, it will have twice that ve- 
locity at the end of two feconds, thrice at the end of three feconds, 
and foon in proportion to the time. This accelerated velocity in a 
flone falling muft have been obferved from the beginning of the 
world ; but the firft perfon, as far as we know, who accounted 
for it in a proper and philofophical manner, was the famous Ga- 
lileo ; after innumerable falfe and fiditious accounts had been 
given of it. 

He obferved, that bodies once put in motion continue that mo- 
-tion with the fame velocity, and in the fame diredlion, until they 
be flopped or retarded, or have the direcftion of their motion al- 
tered, by fome force imprefTed upon them. This property of bodies 
is called their inertia^ or inadlivity ; for it implies no more than 
that bodies cannot of themfelves change their flate from reft to 
motion, or from motion to reft. He obferved alfo, that gravity 
adls conftantly and equally upon a body, and therefore will give 
equal degrees of velocity to a body in equal times. From thefe 
principles, which are known from experience to be fixed laws of Na- 
ture, Galileo Ihewed, that heavy bodies muft defcend with a ve- 
locity uniformly accelerated, as by experience they are found to do. 

For if the body by its gravitation acquire a certain velocity at 

P the 



CHAP. vr. the end of one fecond, it would, though its gravitation fhould ceafe 
that moment, continue to go on with that velocity ; but its gravi- 
tation continues, and will in another fecond give it an additional 
velocity, equal to that which it gave in the firft ; fo that the whole 
velocity at the end of two feconds will be twice as great as at the 
end of one. In like manner, this velocity being continued through 
the third fecond, and having the fame addition by gravitation as 
in any of the preceding, the whole velocity at the end of the third 
fecond will be thrice as great as at the end of the firft, and fo on 

We may here obferve, that the caufes afligned of this phseno- 
menon are two : F'trjl^ That bodies once put in motion retain their 
velocity and their diredlion until it is changed by fome force 
imprefTed upon them. Secondly^ That the weight or gravitation 
of a body is always the fame. Thefe are laws of Nature, confirmed 
by univerfal experience, and therefore are not feigned but true 
caufes ; then, they are precifely adequate to the efFedl afcribed to 
them ; they muft neceffarily produce that very motion in defcend- 
ing bodies which we find to take place ; and neither more nor lefs. 
The account therefore given of this phaznomenon is juft and phi- 
lofophical ; no other wiU ever be required or admitted by thofe 
who underlland this. 

It ought likewife to be obferved, that the caufes affigned of this 
pha:nomenon are things of which we can affign no caufe. "Why 
bodies once put in motion continue to move ; why bodies con.- 
ftantly gravitate towards the earth with the fame force, no man 
has been able to fliow: Thefe are fa(5ls confirmed by univerfal ex- 
perience, and they muft no doubt have a caufe ; but their caufe is 
unknown, and we call them laws of Nature, becaufe we know no 
caufe of them but the will of the Supreme Being. 

But may we not attempt to find the caufe of gravitation, and of 
other phenomena which we call laws of Nature ? No doubt we 



may. We know not the limit which has been fet to human know- CHAP. VI. 
ledge, and our knowledge of the works of God can never be car- 
ried too far : But, fuppofing gravitation to be accounted for, by an 
asthereal elaflic medium for inftance, this can only be done, JirJ}^ 
by proving the exiftence and the elafticity of this medium ; and, 
fecondly, by fhowing, that this medium muft necefTarily produce 
that gravitation which bodies are known to have. Until this be 
done, gravitation is not accounted for, nor is its caufe known j 
and when this is done, the elafticity of this medium will be con- 
fidered as a law of Nature, whofe caufe is unknown. The chain of 
natural caufes has, not unfitly, been compared to a chain hanging 
down from heaven : A link that is difcovered fupports the links 
below it, but it muft itfelf be fupported ; and that which fupports 
it muft be fupported, until we come to the firft link, which is fup- 
ported by the throne of the Almighty. Every natural caufe muft 
have a caufe, until we afcend to the firft caufe, which is uncaufed, 
and operates not by neceffity but by will. 

By what has been faid in this Chapter, thofe who are but little 
acquainted with philofophical inquiries may fee what is meant by 
accounting for a phaenomenon, or Ihowing its caufe, which ought 
to be well underftood, in order to judge of the theories by which 
Philofophers have attempted to accouat for our perception of ex- 
ternal objeds by the fenfes. 


Sentiments of Philofophers about the Perception of external ObjeSls ; and^firjl^ 
Of the Theory of Father Malebranche. 

HOW the correfpondence is carried on between the thinking 
principle within us, and the material world without us, has 
always been found a very difficult problem to thofe Philofophers 

P 2 who 

ii6 E S S A Y 11. 

CHAP. VII . Yvho think themfelves obliged to account for every phaenomenon in 
nature. Many Philofophers, ancient and modern, have employed 
their invention to difcover how we are made to perceive external 
objects by our fenfes : And there appears to be a very great vmifor- 
mity in their fentiments in the main, notwithftanding their varia- 
tions in particular points. 

Plato illuftrates our manner of perceiving the objedls of fenfe, 
in this manner : He fuppofes a dark fubterraneous cave, in which 
men lie bound in fuch a manner, that they can dire(5l their eyes 
only to one part of the cave : Far behind, there is a light, fome 
rays of which come over a wall to that part of the cave which is 
before the eyes of our prifoners. A number of perfons, vari- 
oufly employed, pafs between them and the light, whofe fhadows 
are feen by the prifoners, but not the perfons themfelves. 

In this manner, that Philofopher conceived, that, by our fenfes, 
we perceive the fhadows of things only, and not things themfelves. 
He feems to have borrowed his notions on this fubje(fl from the 
Pythagoreans, and they very probably from Pythagoras himfelf. 
If we make allowance for Plato's allegorical genius, his fenti- 
ments on this fubjedl correfpond very well with thofe of his fcho- 
lar Aristotle, and of the Peripatetics. The fliadows of Plato 
may very well reprefent the fpecies and phantafms of the Peripate- 
tic fchool, and the ideas and impreffions of modern Philofophers. 

Two thoufand years after Plato, Mr Locke, who fludied the 
operations of the human mind fo much, and with fo great fuccefs, 
reprefents our manner of perceivieg external objedls, by a fimili- 
tude very much refembling that of the cave. " Methinks, fays 
" he, the underflanding is not much unlike a clofet wholly fliut 
" from light, with only fome little opening left, to let in external 
" vifible refemblances or ideas of things without. Would the pic- 
" tures coming into fuch a dark room but ftay there, and lie fo 
" orderly as to be found upon occafion, it would very much re- 

" femble 


" femble the vinderftanding of a man, in reference to all objeds CHAP , vu . 
" of^fight, and the ideas -of them." 

Plato's fubterranean cave, and Mr Locke's dark clofet, may- 
be applied with cafe to all the fyftems of perception that have been- 
invented : For they all fuppofe that we perceive not external ob- 
jedls immediately, and that the immediate objedts of perception 
are only certain fhadows of the external objedls. Thofe fhadows 
or images, which we immediately perceive, were by the ancients 
caWcd Jpedesy /brms, phantafms. Since the time of Des Cartes, 
they have commonly been called Ideas^ and by Mr Hume imprejfions. 
But all Philofophers, from Plato to Mr Hume, agree in this, That 
we do not perceive external objedls immediately, and that the im- 
mediate objedt of perception muft be fome image prefent to the 
mind. So far there appears an unanimity, rarely to be found 
.among Philofophers' 'on fuch abftrufe points. 

If it fhould be afked, Whether, according to the opinion of 
Philofophers, we perceive the images or ideas only, and infer the 
exiftence and qualities of the external object from what we perceive 
in the image ? Or, whether we really perceive the external objedl 
as well as its image ? The anfwer to this queftion is not quite ob- 

On the one hand, Philofophers, if we except Berkeley and 
Hume, believe the exiflence of external objedls of fenfe, and call 
them objedls of perception, though not immediate obje(5ls. But 
what they mean by a mediate objedl of perception I do not find 
clearly explained ; whether they fuit their language to popular 
opinion, and mean that we perceive external objeds in that figu- 
rative fenfe, in which we fay that we perceive an abfent friend 
when we look on his pi(5lure ; or whether they mean, that really, 
and without a figure, we perceive both the external objed and its 
idea in the mind. If the la(l be their meaning, it would follow, 
that, in every iriftance of perception, there is a double objed per- 
ceived : 

ii8 ESSAY II. 

^^^J-^^] - ceived : That I perceive, for inflance, one fun in the heavens, arid 
another in my own mind. But I do not find that they affirni this ; 
and as it contradids the experience of all mankind, I will not im- 
pute it to them. 

It feems, therefore, that their opinion is, That we do not really 
perceive the external objedl, but the internal only ; and that when 
they fpeak of perceiving external objeds, they mean it only in a 
popular or in a figurative fenfc, as above explained. Several rea- 
fons lead me to think this to be the opinion of Philofophers, befide 
what is mentioned above. Virjl^ If we do really perceive the ex- 
ternal objed itfelf, there feems to be no nec^ffity, no ufe, for an 
image of it. Secondly^ Since the time of Des Cartes, Philofo- 
phers have very generally thought that the exiflence of external 
objeds of fenfe requires proof, and can only be proved from the 
exiftence of their ideas, thirdly. The way in which Philofophers. 
fpeak of ideas, feems to imply that they ax'e the only objedls of 
' perception. 

Having endeavoured to explain what is common to Philofophers 
in accounting for our perceptipn of external objedis, we fliall give 
Ibme detail of their differences. 

The ideas by which we perceive external objedls, are faid by 
fome to be the ideas of the Deity ; but it has been more generally 
thought, that every man's ideas are proper to himfelf, and are ei- 
ther in his mind, or in \i\%fcnforiu7n^ where the mind is immedi- 
ately prefent. Tht Jirji is the theory of Malebranche; the^J- 
cond we fhall call the common theory. 

With regard to that of Malebranche, it feems to have fome 

affinity with the Platonic notion of ideas, but is not the fame. 

- Plato believed that there are three eternal firft principles, from 

which all things have their origin ; matter, ideas, and an efficient 

caufe. Matter is that of which all things are made, which, by all 



the ancient Phllofophers, was conceived to be eternal. Ideas are chap, v ii. 
forms without matter of every kind of things which can exift ; 
which forms were alfo conceived by Plato to be eternal and im- 
mutable, and to be the models or patterns by which the eiEcienc 
caufe, that is the Deity, formed every part of this Univerfe. Thefe 
ideas were conceived to be the fole objedts of fcience, and indeed 
of all true knowledge. While we are imprifoned in the body, we 
are prone to give attention to the ohje(5ls of fenfe only ; but thefe 
being individual things, and in a conflant fludhuation, being in- 
deed fhadows rather than realities, cannot be the objetft of real 
knowledge. All fcience is employed, not about individual things, 
but about things vmiverfal and abflra(5t from matter. Truth is 
eternal and immutable, and therefore mufl have for its objed eter- 
nal and immutable ideas ; thefe we are capable of contemplating 
in fome degree even in our prefent ftate, but not without a certain 
purification of mind, and abflra<5lion from the objedls of fenfe. 
Such, as far as I am able to comprehend, were the fublime notions 
of Plato, and probably of Pythagoras. 

The Philofophers of the Alexandrian fchool, commonly called 
the latter Platonifls, feem to have adopted the fame fyftem ; but 
with this difference, that they made the eternal ideas not to be a 
principle diflindl from the Deity, but to be in the divine intelledl, 
as the obje(5ls of thofe conceptions which the divine mind muft 
from all eternity have had, not only of every thing which he has 
made, but of every polTible exiflence, and of all the relations of 
things : By a proper purification and abflradlion from the objeds 
of fenfe, we may be in fome meafure united to the Deity, and in 
the eternal light be enabled to difcern the mofl fublime intellectual 

Thefe Platonic notions, grafted upon Chriftianity, probably gave 
rife to the fe6l called Myjlics^ which, though in its fpirit and prin- 
ciples extremely oppofite to the Peripatetic, yet was never extin- 
guiihed, but fubfifts to this day. 



ESSAY 11. 

CHAP. VII. .Many of the Fathers of the Chrlftian chvirch have a tindture of 
the tenets of the Alexandrian fchool ; among others St Augustine. 
But it does not appear, as far as I know, that either Plato, or 
the latter Platonifls, or St Augustine, or the Myftics, thought 
that we perceive the objedls of fenfe in the divine ideas. They 
had too mean a notion of our perception of fenfible obje(5ls to 
afcribe to it fo high an origin. This theory, therefore, of our 
perceiving the objects of fenfe in the ideas of the Deity, I take to 
be the invention of Father Malebranche himfelf. He indeed 
brings many pafFages of St Augustine to countenance it, and 
feems very defirous to have that Father of his party. " Bur in thofe 
pafTages, though the Father fpeaks in a very high drain of God's 
being the light of our minds, of our being Illuminated imme- 
diately by the eternal light, and ufes other fimilar expreflions ; yet 
he feems to apply thofe expreffions only to our illumination in mo- 
ral and divine things, and not to the perception of objects by the 
fenfes. Mr Bayle imagines that fome traces of this opinion of 
Malebranche are to be found in Amelius the Platonift, and 
even in Democritus ; but his authorities feem to be flrained. 

Malebranche, with a very penetrating genius, entered into a 
more minute examination of the powers of the human mind, than 
any one before him. He had the advantage of the difcoveries 
made by Des Cartes, whom he followed without flavilli at- 

He lays it down as a principle admitted by all Philofophers, and 
which could not be called in queftion, that we do not perceive 
external objedls immediately, but by means of images or ideas of 
them prefent to the mind. " I fuppofe, fays he, that every one 
" will grant that we perceive not the objetfls that are without us 
" immediately, and of themfelves. We fee the fun, the ftars, and 
" an infinity of objeds without us ; and it is not at all likely that 
" the foul fallies out of the body, and, as it were, takes a walk 
" through the Iieavens to contemplate all thofe objeds : She fees 

" them 


" them not, therefore, by themfelves ; and the immediate object; ^^^^1^^^ ; 

*' of the mind, when it fees the fun, for example, is not the fun, 

" but fomething which is intimately united to the foul ; and it is 

" that which I call an idea : So that by the word idea, I under fland 

** nothing elfe here but that which is the immediate objedl, or 

" neareft to the mind, when we perceive any obje<5l. Ic ought to 

*' be carefully obferved, that, in order to the mind's perceiving 

" any obje(5l, it is abfolutely neceflary that the idea of that objedl 

" be adlually prefent to it. Of this it is not poffible to doubt. 

" The things which the foul perceives are of two kinds. They 

*' are either in the foul, or they are without the foul : Thofe that 

" are in the foul are its own thoughts, that is to fay, all its dif- 

" ferent modifications. The foul has no need of ideas for percei- 

" ving thefe things. But with regard to things without the foul, 

" we cannot perceive them but by means of ideas." 

Having laid this foundation, as a principle common to all Philo- 
fophers, and which admits of no doubt, he proceeds to enumerate 
all the pofTible ways by which the ideas of fenfible objeds may be 
prefented to the mind : Either, Jirji, they come from the bodies 
which we perceive ; or, fecondly, the foul has the power of produ- 
cing them in itfelf ; or, thirdly , they are produced by the Deity, 
either in our creation, or occafionally as there is ufe for them ; or, 
fourthly, the foul has in itfelf virtually and eminently, as the fchools 
fpeak, all the perfedlions which it perceives in bodies ; or, fifthly, 
the foul is united with a Being pofTefFed of all perfedlion, who has 
in himfelf the ideas of all ci*eated things. 

This he takes to be a complete enumeration of all the poflible 
ways in which the ideas of external obje<5ls may be prefented to 
our minds : He employs a whole chapter upon each j refuting the 
four firfl, and confirming the laft by various arguments. The 
Deity, being always prefent to our minds in a more intimate man- 
ner than any other being, may, upon occafion of the impreffions 
made on our bodies, difcover to us as far as he thinks proper, and 

C^ according 



CHAP.vii. according to fixed laws, his own ideas of the objecfl ; and thus we 
fee all things in God, or in the divine ideas. 

However vifionary this fyftem may appear on a fuperficial view, 
yet when we confider, that he agreed with the whole tribe of Philo- 
fophers in conceiving ideas to be the immediate objedls of percep- 
tion, and that he found infuperable difficulties, and even abfurdi- 
ties, in every other hypothefis concerning them, it will not appear 
fo wonderful that a man of very great genius Ihould fall into this ; 
and probably it pleafed fo devout a man the more, that it fets in 
the moft flriking light our dependence upon God, and his conti- 
nual prefence with us. 

He diftinguifhed, more accurately than any Philofopher had 
done before, the objedls which we perceive from the fenfations in 
our own minds, which, by the laws of Nature, always accompany 
the perception of the objedl. As in many things, fo particularly 
in this, he has great merit : For this, I apprehend, is a key that 
opens the way to a right underflanding both of our external fenfes, 
and of other powers of the mind. The vulgar confound -fenfation 
with other powers of the mind, and with their obje(fts, becaufe the 
purpofes of life do not make a diftinclion neceffary. The con- 
founding of thefe in common language has led Philofophers, in one 
period, to make thofe things external which really are fenfations in 
our own minds ; and, in another period, running as is ufual into 
the contrary extreme, to make every thing almoft to be a fenfation 
or feeling in our minds. 

It is obvious, that the fyftem of Malebranche leaves no evi- 
dence of *he exiftence of a material world, from what we perceive 
by oup fenfes ; for the divine ideas, which are the objeiSls imme- 
diately perceived, were the fame before the world was created. 
Malebranche was .too acute not to difcern this confequence of 
his fyftem, and too candid not to acknowledge it : He fairly owns 
it, and endeavours to make advantage of it, refting the complete 



evidence we have of the exiftence of .matter upon the authority of CHAP.vii. 
revelation : He fliews, that the arguments brought by Des Cartes 
to prove the exiftence of a material world, though as good as any 
that reafon could furnifli, are not perfedly concluiive ; and though 
he acknowledges with Des Cartes, that we feel a ftrong propen- 
sity to believe the exiftence of a material world, yet he thinks this 
is not fufficient ; and that to yield to fuch propenfities without 
evidence, is to expofe ourfelves to perpetual delulion. He thinks, 
therefore, that the only convincing evidence we have of the ex- 
iftence of a material world is, that we are alTured by revelation 
that God created the heavens and the earth, and that the Word 
was made flefli : He is fenfible of the ridicule to which fo ftrange 
an opinion may expofe him among thofe who are guided by pre- 
judice ; but, for the fake of truth, he is willing to bear it. But 
no author, not even Bifliop Berkeley, hath ftiown more clearly, 
that, either upon his own fyftem, or upon the common principles 
_of Philofophers with regard to ideas, we have no evidence left, 
either from reafon or from our fenfes, of the exiftence of a material 
world. It is no more than juftice to Father Malebranche to 
acknowledge, that Biftiop Berkeley's arguments are to be found 
in him in their whole force. 

Mr NoRRis, an Englifla divine, efpoufed the fyftem of Male- 
branche, in his Eflay towards the theory of the ideal or intel- 
ledlual world, publiftied in two volumes 8vo, anno 1701. This 
author has made a feeble effort to fupply a defe<5l which is to be 
found not in Malebranche only, but in almoft all the authors 
who have treated of ideas ; I mean, to prove their exiftence. He 
has employed a whole chapter to prove, that material things cannot 
be an immediate objedl of perception. His arguments are thefe : 
I/?, They are without the mind, and therefore there can be no 
union between the obje(5l and the perception. 2dlj, They are dif- 
proportioned to the mind, and removed from it by the whole 
diameter of being, ^^^jy Becaufe, if material objects were imme- 
diate objedls of perception, there could be no phyfical fcience ; 

Q__2 things 



CHAP. VII. things neceflary and immutable being the only objedls of fcience. 
4//»/j', If material things were perceived by themfelves, they would 
be a true light to our minds, as being the intelligible form of our 
underftandings, and confequently perfe(5live of them, and indeed 
fuperior to them. 

Malebranche's fyflem was adopted by many devout people 
in France of both fexes ; but it feems to have had no great cur- 
rency in other countries. Mr Locke wrote a fmall trad: againfl 
it, which is found among his pofthumous works : But whether it 
was written in hafte, or after the vigour of his underftanding was 
impaired by age, there is lefs of flrength and folidity in it, than 
in moft of his writings. The mod formidable antagonift Male- 
BRANCHE met with was in his own country ; Antony Arnauld, 
docflor of the Sorbonne, and one of the acuteft writers the Janfenills 
have to boaft of, thoxigh that fe<5l has produced many. Male- 
BRAJvTCHE was a Jefuit, and the antipathy between the Jefuits and 
Janfenifts left him no room to expedl quarter from his learned an- 
tagonift. Thofe who chufe to fee this fyftem, attacked on the one 
hand, and defended on the other, with fubtilty of argument, and 
elegance of expreffion, and on the part of Arnauld with much 
wit and humour, may find fatisfadlion by reading Malebranche's 
Enquiry after truth ; Arnauld's book of true and falfe ideas ; 
Malebranche's Defence; and fome fubfequent replies and de- 
fences. In controverfies of this kind, the aflailant commonly has 
the advantage, if they are not unequally matched ; for it is eafier 
to overturn all the theories of Philofophers upon this fubjed^, than 
to defend any one of them. Mr Bayle makes a very juft remark 
upon this controverfy, that the arguments of Mr Arnauld againft 
the fyftem of Malebranche were often unanfwerable, but they 
were capable of being retorted againft his own fyftem ; and his 
ingenious antagonift knew well how to ufe this defence. 



'- ■>- -/ 


Of the common I'heory of Perception, and of the Sentiments of the 
Peripatetics, and of Dtls Cartes. 

THIS theory in general is, that we perceive external objedls 
only by certain images which are in our minds, or in the 
fenforiura to which the mind is immediately prefent. Philofophers 
in different ages have diflfered both in the names they have given 
to thofe images, and in their notions concerning them. It would 
be a laborious talk to enumerate all their variations, and perhaps 
would not requite the labour. I fhall only give a fketch of the 
principal differences with regard to their names and their nature. 

By Aristotle and the Peripatetics, the images prefented to our 
fenfes were caWcdfenfible /pedes or forms ; thofe prefented to the me- 
mory or imagination were called phantafms; and thofe prefented to 
the intelle(5l were called intelligible /pedes ; and they thought, that 
there can be no perception, no imagination, no intelle6lion, with- 
out fpecies or phantafms. What the ancient Philofophers called 
fpecies, fenfible and intelligible, and phantafms, in later times, 
and efpecially fince the time of Des Cartes, came to be called by 
the common name of ideas. The Cartefians divided our ideas into 
three clafles, thofe oifen/ation, of imagination, and o^ pure intelkSlion. 
Of the objects of fenfation and imagination, they thought the images 
are in the brain, but of objecfis that are incorporeal, 'the images 
are in the underftanding, or pure intelledV. 

Mr LocKB, taking the word idea in the fame fenfe as Des Carte's 
had done before him, to fignify whatever is meant by phantafm, 
notion or fpecies, divides ideas into thofe oi /en/ation, and thofe of 
reflecfion ; meaning by the firfl, the ideas of all corporeal objects, 
whether perceived, remembered, or imagined; by the fecond, the 


126 ESSAY II. 

?^'^^ "/' i<^^c^s of the powers and operations of our minds. What Mr Locke 
calls ideas, Mr Hume divides into two diftindl kinds, hnprcjfions 
and ideas. The difference betwixt thefc, he fays, confifls in the 
degrees of force and livellnefs with which they flrlke upon the 
mind. Under imprejfions he comprehends all our fenfations, paffions 
and emotions, as they make their firft appeai"ance in the foul. By 
ideas he means the faint images of thefe in thinking and reafoning. 

Dr Hartley gives the fame meaning to ideas as Mr Hume does, 
and what Mr Hume calls impreffions he calls fenfations ; conceiving 
our fenfations to be occafioned by vibrations of the infinitefimal 
particles of the brain, and ideas by miniature vibrations, or vibra- 
tiuncles. Such differences we find among Philofophers, with re- 
gard to the name of thofe internal images of objedls of fenfe, 
which they hold to be the immediate obje(5ls of perception. 

We (hall next give a fliort detail of the fentimentsof the Peripatetics 
, and Cartefians, of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, concerning them. 

Aristotle feems to have thought that the foul confifls of two 
parts, or, rather, that we have two fouls, the animal and the ra- 
tional ; or, as he calls them, the foul and the intellect. To the 
Jlrjl^ belong the fenfes, memory, and imagination j to the lajl, 
judgment, opinion, belief, and reafoning. The firft we have in 
common with brute animals ; the laft is peculiar to man. The ani- 
mal foul he held to be a certain form of the body, which is infe- 
parable from it, and periflies at death. To this foul the fenfes be- 
long : And he defines a fenfe to be that which is capable of re- 
ceiving the fenfible forms, or fpccies of objeds, without any of the 
matter of them ; as wax receives the form of the feal without any 
of the matter of it. The forms of found, of colotir,- of tafte, and 
of other fenfible qualities, are in like manner received by the fenfes. 

It feems to be a neceffary confequence of Aristotle's doc- 
trine, that bodies are conftantly fending forth, in all directions, as 



many different kinds of forms without matter as they have differ- CHAP.viii. 
ent fenflble quabties; for the forms of colour muft enter by the 
eye, the forms of found by the ear, and fo of the other fenfes. 
This accordingly was maintained by the followers of Aristotle, 
though, not as far as I know, exprefsly mentioned by himfelf. 
They difputed concerning the nature of thofe forms of fpecies, 
whether they were real beings or non -entities ; and fome held them 
to be of an intermediate nature between the two. The whole doc- 
trine of the Peripatetics and fchoolmen concerning forms, fubftan- 
tial and accidental, and concerning the tranfmifTion of fenflble fpe- 
cies from objeds of fenfe to the mind, if it be at all intelligible, 
is fo far above my comprehenfion, that I fhould perhaps do it in- 
juflice, by entering into it more minutely. Malebranche, in 
his Recherche de la Yerite^ has employed a chapter to fhew, that ma- 
terial objeds do not fend forth fenflble fpecies of their feveral fen- 
flble qualities. 

The great revolution which Des Cartes produced in philofb- 
phy, was the effedl of a fuperiority of genius, aided by the cir- 
cumflances of the times. Men had, for more than a thoufand 
years, looked up to Aristotle as an oracle in philofophy. His 
authority was the tefl of truth. The fmall remains of the -Plato- 
nic fyftem were confined to a few Myftics, whofe principles and 
manner of life drew little attention. The feeble attempts of Ra- 
mus, and of fome others, to make improvements in the fyflein, 
had little effe(5l. The Peripatetic do<5lrines were fo interwoven 
with the whole fyflem of fcholaflic theology, that to diffent from 
Aristotle was to alarm the Church. The mofl ufeful and intel- 
ligible parts, even of Aristotle's writings, were negledled, and 
philofophy was become an art of fpeaking learnedly, and difputing 
fubtilely, without producing any invention of ufe in human life. 
It was fruitful of words, but barren of works, and admirably con- 
trived for drawing a veil over human ignorance, and putting a 
flop to the progrefs of knowledge, by filling men with a conceit 
that they knew every thing. It was very fruitful alfo in contro- 

verfles ; 

128 ESSAY IT. 

CHARviii. verfies ; but for the mofl: part they were corftroverfies about words, 
or about things of no moment, or things above the reach of the 
human faculties : And the iffue of them was what might be ex- 
pelled, that the contending parties fought, without gaining or lo- 
fing an inch of ground, till they were weary of the difpute, or 
their attention was called ofF to fome other fubjedl. 

Such was the philofophy of the fchools of Europe, during ma- 
ny ages of darknefs and barbarifm that fucceeded the decline of the 
Roman empire ; fo that there was great need of a reformation in 
philofophy as well as in religion. The light began to dawn at 
lad ; a fpirit of enquiry fprang up, and men got the courage to 
doubt of the dogmas of Aristotle, as well as of the decrees of 
Popes. The mofl important ftep in the reformation of religion 
was to deflroy the claim of infallibility, which hindered men from 
ufing their judgment in matters of religion : And the mofl impor- 
tant flep in the reformation of philofophy was to dellroy the au- 
thority, of which Aristotle had fo long had peaceable pofleilion. 
The laft had been attempted by Lord Bacon and others, with no 
lefs zeal than the firft by Luther and Calvin. 

De* Cartes knew well the defedls of the prevailing fyftem 
which had begun to lofe its authority. His genius enabled him, and 
his fpirit prompted him, to attempt a new one. He had applied 
much to the mathematical fciences, and had made confiderable im- 
provement in them. He wifhed to introduce that perfpicuity and 
evidence into other branches of philofophy which he found in them. 

Being fenfiblc how apt we are to be led aftray by prejudices of 
education, he thought the only way to avoid error, was, to refolve 
to doubt of every thing, and hold every thing to be uncertain ; 
even thofe things which he had been taught to hold as mod cer- 
tain, until he had fuch clear and cogent evidence as compelled his 



In this ftate of univerfal doubt, that which firft appeared to him CHAP.viir. 
to be clear and certain, was his own exiftence. Of this he was cer- 
tain, becaufe he was confcious that he thought, that he reafoned, 
and that he doubted. He ufed this argument, therefore, to prove 
his own exiftence, cogito, ergofum. This he conceived to be the firft 
of all truths, the foundation-ftone upon which the whole fabric of 
human knowledge is built, and on which it muft reft. And as 
Archimedes thought, that if he had one fixed point to reft his en- 
gines upon, he could move the earth; fo Des Cartes, charmed 
with the difcovery of one certain principle, by which he emerged 
from the ftate of univerfal doubt, believed that this principle alone 
would be a fufficient foundation on which he might build the 
■whole fyftem of fcience. He feems therefore to have taken no 
great trouble to examine whether there might not be other firft 
principles, which, on account of their own light and evidence, 
ought to be admitted by every man of found judgment. The love 
of fimplicity, fo natural to the mind of man, led him to apply the 
whole force of his mind to raife the fabric of knowledge upon this 
one principle, rather than feek a broader foundation. 

Accordingly, he does not admit the evidence of fenfe to be a 
firft principle, as he does that of confcioufnefs. The arguments of 
the ancient fceptics here occurred to him, that our fenfes often de- 
ceive us, and therefore ought never to be trufted on their own au- 
thority : That in fleep, we often feem to fee and hear things which 
we are convinced to have had no exiftence. But that which chief- 
ly led Des Cartes to think that he ought not to truft to his fenfes 
■without proof of their veracity, was, that he took it for granted, 
as all Philofophers had done before him, that he did not perceive 
external obje<5ls themfelves, but certain images of them in his 
own mind, called ideas. He was certain, by confcioufnefs, that 
he had the ideas of fun and moon, earth and fea ; but how could 
he be aflured that there really exifted external objeds like to thefe 
ideas?- ^ 

R Hitherto 



CHA P.VII I. Hitherto he was uncertain of every thing but of his own exift- 
ence, and the exiflence of the operations and ideas of his owa 
mind. Some of his difciples, it is faid, remained at this ftage of 
his fyftem, and got the name of Egoifts. They could not find 
evidence in the fubfequent ftages of his progrefs. But Des Car- 
tes refolved not to flop here ; he endeavoured to prove, by a new 
argument, drawn from his idea of a Deity, the exiftence of an in- 
finitely perfe(fl Being, who made him, and all his faculties. From 
the perfedlion ot this Being, he inferred that he could be no de- 
ceiver ; and therefore concluded, that his fenfes, and the other fa- 
culties he found in himfelf, are not fallacious, but may be trufled, 
when a proper ufe is made of them. 

The fyftem of Des Cartes is, with great perfpicuity and 
acutenefs, explained by himfelf in his writings, which ought to 
be confuked by thofe who would under ftand it. 

The merit of Des Cartes cannot be eafily conceived by thofe 
who have not fome notion of the Peripatetic fyftem, in which he 
was educated. To throw off the prejudices of education, and to 
create a fyftem of nature, totally different from that which had 
fubdued the underftanding of mankind, and kept it in fubjedlion 
for fo many centuries, required an uncommon force of mind. 

The world which Des Cartes exhibits to our view, is not only 
in its ftru(5lure very different from that of the Peripatetics, but is, 
as we may fay, corapofed of different materials. 

In the old fyftem, every thing was, by a kind of metaphyfical 
fublimation, refolved into principles fo myfterious, that it may be 
a queftion whether they were words without meaning, or were no- 
tions too refined for human underftanding. 

All that we obferve in nature, is, according to Aristotle, a 
conftant fucccffion of the operations of generation and corruption. 



The principles of generation are matter and form. The principle CHAP.viii, 
of corruption is privation. All natural things are produced or ge- 
nerated by the union of matter and form ; matter being, as it were, * 
the mother, and form the father. As to matter, or the firft mat- 
ter, as it is called, it is neither fubftance nor accident ; it has no 
quality or property ; it is nothing adlually, but every thing poten- 
tially. It has fo ftrong an appetite for form, that it is no fooner 
diverted of one form, than it is clothed with another, and is equally 
fufceptible of all forms fucceflively. It has no nature, but only 
the capacity of having any one. 


This is the account which the Peripatetics give of the firft mat- * 

ter. The other principle of generation is/brm, a£l^ perfedion ; for 
thefe three words fignify the fame thing. But we muft not con- 
ceive form to confift in the figure, fize, arrangement, or motion 
of the parts of matter. Thefe, indeed, are accidental forms, by 
which things artificial are formed : But every produdlion of Na- 
ture has a fubftantial form, which, joined to matter, makes it to 
be what it is. The fubftantial form is a kind of informing foul, 
which gives the thing its fpecific nature, and all its qualities, powers, 
and adlivity. Thus the fubftantial form of heavy bodies, is that 
which makes them defcend ; of light bodies, that which makes 
them afcend. The fubftantial form of gold, is that which gives 
it its dudlility, its fufibility, its weight, its colour, and all its qua- 
lities ; and the fame is to be underftood of every natural produc- 
tion. A change in the accidental form of any body, is alteration 
only ; but a change in the fubftantial form, is generation and cor- 
ruption : It is corruption with refpedl to the fubftantial form, of 
which the body is deprived : It is generation, with refpedl to the 
fubftantial form that fucceeds. Thus when a horfe dies and turns 
to duft, the philofophical account of the pha;nomenon is this : A 
certain portion of the materia prima, which was joined to the fub- 
ftantial form of a horfe, is deprived of it by privation, and in the 
fame inftant is invefted with the fubftantial form of earth. As 
ev6ry fubftance muft have a fubftantial form, there are fome of 

R 2 thofe 



CHA P.viif . thofe forms inanimate, fome vegetative, fome animal, and fome 
rational. The three former kinds can only fubfifl in matter ; but 
" the laft, according to the fchoolm-en, is immediately created by 
God, and infufed into the body, making one fubftance with ic^ 
while they are united ; yet capable of being disjoined from the bo- 
dy, and of fubfifting by itfelf. 

Such are the principles of natural things in the Peripatetic fyflem» 
It retains fo much of the ancient Pythagorean dodlrine, that we 
cannot afcribe the invention of it folely to Aristotle, although 
he no doubt made confiderable alterations in it. The firfl matter was 
probably the fame in both fyftems, and was in both held to be 
eternal. They differed more about form. The Pythagoreans and 
Platonifts held forms or ideas, as they called them, to be eternal^ 
immutable, and felf-exiftent. Aristotle maintained, that they 
were not eternal, nor felf-exiftent. On the other hand, he did not 
allow them to be produced, but educed from matter ; yet he held 
them not to be actually in the matter from which they are educed, 
but potentially only. But thefe two fyftems differed lefs from one 
another, than that of Des Cartes did from both. 

In the world of Des Cartes, we meet with two kinds of beings 
only, to wit, body and mind ; the firft the objedl of our fenfes, 
the other of confcioufnefs ; both of them things of which we have 
a diftindl apprehenfion, if the human mind be capable of diflincft 
apprehenfion at all. To the firft, no qualities are afcribed but ex- 
tenfion, figure, and motion ; to the laft, nothing but thought, and 
its various modifications, of which we are confcious. He could 
obferve no common attribute, no refernbling feature in the attri- 
butes of body and mind, and therefore concluded them to be di- 
ftindl fubftances, and totally of a different nature ; and that body 
from its very nature is inanimate and inert, incapable of any kind 
of thought or fenfation, or of producing any change or alteration 
in itfelf. 



Des Cartes muft be allowed the honour of being the firft who CHA P.viii . 
drew a diftindt line between the material and intelleclual world, 
which, in all the old fyftems, were fo blended together, that it was 
impoflible to fay where the one ends and the other begins. How 
much this diftindlion hath contributed to the improvements of 
modern times, in the philofophy both of body and of mind, is not, 
eafy to fay. 

One obvious confequence of this didindlion was, that accurate 
refledlion on the operations of our own mind is the only way to 
make any progrefs in the knowledge of it. Malebranche, 
Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, were taught this leffon by Des 
Cartes ; and to it we owe their mod valuable difcoveries in this 
branch of philofophy. The analogical way of reafoning concern- 
ing the powers of the mind from the properties of body, which is . 
the fource of almoft all the errors on this fubjei5l, and which is fo * 
■natural to the bulk of mankind, was as contrary to the principles 
of Des Cartes, as it was agreeable to the principles of the old 
philofophy. We may therefore truly fay, that, in that part of 
philofophy which relates to the mind, Des Cartes laid the foun- 
dation, and put us into that tradl, which all wife men now acknow- 
ledge to be the only one in which we can expecl fuccefs. 

With regai'd to phyfics, or the philofophy of body, if Des Car- 
tes had not the merit of leading men into the right tradl, we muft 
allow him that of bringing them out of a wrong one. The Peri- 
patetics, by affigning to every fpecies of body a particular fubftan- 
tial form, which produces, in an unknown manner, all the effedts 
we obferve in it, put a ftop to all improvement in this branch of 
philofophy. Gravity and levity, fluidity and hardnefs, heat and 
cold, were qualities arifing from the fubflantial form of the bodies 
to which they belonged. Generation and corruption, fubllantial 
forms, and occult qualities, were always at hand, to refolve every 
pharnomenon. This philofophy, therefore, inftead of accounting 
for any of the phenomena of Nature, contrived only to give learn- 

134 ]^ S S A Y II. 

CHAP.viu. g(j names to their unknown caufes, and fed men with the hufks of 
barbarous terms, inftead of the fruit of real knowledge. 

By the fpreading of the Cartefian fyftem, materia prima ^ fubftan- 
tial forms, and occult qualities, with all the jargon of the Arifto- 
t^lian phyfics, fell into utter di%race, and were never mentioned ' 
by the followers of the new fyftem, but as a fubjedl of ridicule. 
Men became fenfible that their vinderftanding had been hoodwink- 
ed by thofe hard terms. They were now accuftomed to explain 
the phacnomena of Nature, by the figure, fize, and motion of the 
particles of matter, things perfedly level to human underftanding, 
and could relifh nothing in philofophy that was dark and unintel- 
ligible. Aristotle, after a reign of more than a thoufand years, 
was now expofed as an objecSl of derifion even to the vulgar, ar- 
rayed in the mock majefty of his fubftantial forms and occult qua- 
lities. The ladies became fond of a philofophy which was eaiily 
learned, and required no words too harfli for their delicate organs. 
Queens and Princefles, the moft diftinguillied perfonages of the 
age, courted the converfation of Des Cartes, and became adepts 
in his philofophy. Witnefs Christina Queen of Sweden, and Eli- 
sabeth, daughter of Frederick King of Bohemia, the mother of 
our Royal Family. The laft, though very young when Des Cartes 
wrote his Pr'incipta^ he declares to be the only perfon he knew, who 
perfedlly underftood not only all his philofophical writings, but the 
moft abftrufe of his mathematical works. 

That men fliould rufli with violence from one extreme, without 
going more or lefs into the contrary extreme, is not to be expecled 
from the weaknefs of human nature. Des Cartes and his fol- 
lowers were not exempted from this weaknefs ; they thought that 
extenfion, figure, and motion, were fufficient to refolve all the phae- 
nomena of the material fyftem. To admit other qualities, whofe 
caufe is unknown, was to return to Egypt, from which they had 
been fo happily delivered. 



When Sir Isaac Newton's dodrlne of gravitation was publifii- CHA P.vrif . 
ed, the great objedlion to it, which hindered its general reception 
in Europe for half a century, was, that gravitation feemed to be 
an occult quality, as it could not be accounted for by extenfion, fi- 
gure, and motion, the known attributes of body. They who de- 
fended him, found it difEcult to anfwer this objedlion, to the fatif- 
facflion of thofe who had been initiated in the principles of the 
Cartefian fyftem. But, by degrees, men came to be fenfible, that, 
in revolting from Aristotle, the Cartefians had gone into the 
oppolite extreme ; experience convinced them, that there are quali- 
ties in the material world, whofe exiflence is. certain, though their 
caufe be occult. To acknowledge this, is only a candid confcffioa 
of human ignorance, than which there is nothing more becoming 
a Philofopher. 

As all that we can know of the mind muft be derived from a 
careful obfervation of its operations in ourfelves ; fo all that we 
can know of the material fyftem muft be derived from what can 
be difcovered by our fenfes. Des Cartes was not ignorant of 
this ; nor was his fyftem io unfriendly to obfervation and experi- 
ment as the old fyftem was. He made many experiments, and 
called earneftly upon all lovers of truth to aid him in this way. 
But, believing that, all the phaenomena of the material world are 
the refult of extenfion, figure, and motion, and that the Deity al- 
ways combines thefe, fo as to produce the phaenomena in the fim- 
pleft manner poffible, he thought, that, from a few experiments, 
he might be able to difeover the fimpleft way, in which the obvi- 
ous phenomena of Nature can be produced, by matter and motion 
only ; and that this muft be the way in which they are a(fl;ually 
produced. His conjedlures were ingenious, upon the principles he 
had adopted : But they are found to be fo fvr from the truth, thatr 
they ought for ever to difcourage Philofophers from trufting to con- 
jecture in the operations of Nature. 

The vortices or whirlpools of fubtile matter, by which Des 



CHAP.vm. Cartks endeavoured to account for the phsenomcna of the mate- 
rial world, are now found to be fidions, no lefs than the fenfible 
fpecies of Aristotle. 

It was referved for Sir Isaac Newton to point out clearly the 
road to the knowledge of Nature's works. Taught by Lord Bacon 
to defpife hypothefes as the fi(5lions of human fancy, he laid it 
down as a rule of philofophifing, that no caufes of natural things 
ought to be affigned but fuch as can be proved to have a real exi- 
ftence. He faw, that all the length men can go in accounting for 
phaenomena is to difcover the laws of Nature, according to which 
they are produced ; and therefore, that the true method of philo- 
fophifing is this : From real fads afcertained by obfervation and 
experiment, to colled by juft indudion the laws of Nature, and 
to apply the laws fo difcovered, to account for the phaenomena of 

Thus the natural Philofopher has the rules of his art fixed with 
no lefs precifion than the Mathematician, and may be no lefs cer- 
tain when he keeps within them, and when he deviates from them : 
And though the evidence of a law of nature from indudion is not 
demonftrative, it is the only kind of evidence on which all the 
moft important affairs of human life muft reft. 

Purfuing this road without deviation, Newton difcovered the 
laws of our planetary fyftem, and of the rays of light ; and gave 
the firft and the nobleft examples of thatA;hafte indudion, which 
Lord Bacon could only delineate in theory. 

How ftrange is ir, that the human mind fhould have wandered 
for fo many ages, without falling into this trad ? How much more 
ftrange, that after it has been clearly difcovered, and a happy pro- 
grefs made in it, many chufe rather to wander in the fairy regions 
of hypothefis ? 



To return to Des Cartes's notions of the manner of our per- CHA P.viiL 
ceiving external objecfts, from which a concern to do juftice to the 
merit of that great reformer in philofophy has led me to digrefs, 
he took it for granted, as the old Philofophers had done, that what 
we immediately perceive muft be either in the mind itfelf, or in 
the brain, to which the mind is immediately prefent* The im- 
prefTions made upon ovir organs, nerves, and brain, could be no- 
thing according to his philofophy but various modifications of ex- 
tenfion, figure, and motion. There could be nothing in the brain 
like found or colour, tafte or fmell, heat or cold ; thefe are fenfa- 
tions in the mind, which, by the laws of the union of foul and 
body» are raifed on occafion of certain traces in the brain ; and al- 
though he gives the name of ideas to thofe traces in the brain, he 
does not think it neceflary that they fhould be perfectly like to the 
things which they reprefent, any more than that words or figns 
fliould refemble the things they fignify. But, fays he, that we may 
follow the received opinion as far as is- poflible, we may allow a 
flight refemblance. Thus we know, that a print in a book may 
reprefent houfes, temples, and groves ; and fo far is it from being 
neceffary that the print Ihould be perfeftly like the thing it repre- 
fents, that its perfedlion often requires the contrary : For a circle 
muft often be reprefented by an ellipfe, a fquare by a rhonjbus, 
and fo of other things. 

The perceptions of fenfe, he thought, are to be referred folely 
to the union of foul and body. They commonly exhibit to us only 
what may hurt or profit our bodies ; and rarely, and by accident 
only, exhibit things as they are in themfelves. It is by obferving 
thi*, that we muft learn to throw off the prejudices of fenfe, and 
to attend with our intelle<5t to the ideas which are by nature im- 
planted in it. By this means we Ihall underftand, that the nature 
of matter does not confift in thofe things that afFe<f1: our fenfes, fuch 
as colour, or fmell, or tafte ; but only in this, that it is fomething 
extended in length, breadth, and depth. 

S The 

138 ESSAY II. 

CHAP.viil . The writings of Des Cartes have in general a remarkable de- 
gree of perfpicuity ; and he undoubtedly intended that, in this 
particular, his philofophy fliould be a perfedl contrail: to that of 
Aristotle ; yet, in what he has faid in different parts of his wri- 
tings, of our perception of external obje(fls, there feems to be fome 
obfcurity, and even inconfiftency ; whether owing to his having 
had different opinions on the fubjedl at different times, or to the 
difficulty he found in it, I will not pretend to fay. 

There are two points in particular, wherein I cannot reconcile 
him to himfelf : The Jir/I, regarding the place of the ideas or images 
of external objedls, which are the immediate objetfts of perception; 
the/econdy with regard to the veracity of our external fenfes. 

As to the^jr/?, he fometimes places the ideas of material objedts 
in the brain, not only when they are perceived, but when they are 
remembered or imagined ; and this has always been held to be the 
Cartefian dodlrine ; yet he fometimes fays, that we are not to 
conceive the images or traces in the brain to be perceived, as if 
there were eyes in the brain ; thefe traces are only occafions on 
which, by the laws of the union of foul and body, ideas are ex- 
cited in the mind; and therefore it is not neceffary, that there 
fhould be an exa(5l refemblance between the traces and the things 
reprefented by them, any more than that words or figns fhould be 
exadlly like the things fignified by them. 

Thefc two opinions, I think, cannot be reconciled. For if the 
images or traces in the brain are perceived, they mufl be the obje(5l& 
of perception, and not the occafions of it only. On the other hafiid, 
if they are only the occafions of our perceiving, they are not per- 
ceived at all. Des Cartes feems to have hefitated between the 
two opinions, or to have paffed from the one to the other. Mr 
Locke feems in like manner to have wavered between the two ; 
fometimes reprefenting the ideas of material things as being in the 
brain, but more frequently as in the mind itfelf. Neither Des 



Cartes nor Mr Locke could, confidently with themfelves, attri- ^ ^hap.vii I' 
hute any other qualities to images in the brain, but extenfion, "" 

figure, and motion; for as to thofe qualities which Mr Locke di- 
ftinguiflied by the name of fecondary qualities, both Philofophers 
believed them not to belong to body at all, and therefore could 
not al'cribe them to images in the brain. • 

Sir Isaac Newton and Dr Samuel Clarke, uniformly Ipeak 
of the fpecies or images of material things as being in that part 
of. the brain called the fejrforium, and perceived by the mind there 
prefent ; but the former fpeaks of this point only incidentally, and 
with his ufual modelly, in the form of a query. Malebranche 
is perfedlly clear and unambiguous in this matter. According to 
his fyftem, the images or traces in the brain are not perceived at 
all, they are only occafions upon which, by the laws of Nature, 
certain fenfations are felt by us, and certain of the divine ideas 
difcovered to our minds. 

They^cow^ point on which Des Cartes feems to waver, is with 
regard to the credit that is due to the teftimony of our fenfes. 

Sometimes, from the perfedlion of the Deity, and his being no 
deceiver, he infers, that our fenfes and our other faculties cannot 
be fallacious : And fince we feem clearly to perceive, that the idea 
of matter comes to us from things external, which it perfedlly re- 
fembles ; therefore, we muft conclude, that there really exifls fonie- 
thing extended in length, breadth, and depth, having all the pro-, 
perties which we clearly perceive to belong to an extended thing. 

At other times, we find Des Cartes and his followers making 
frequent complaints, as all the ancient Philofophers did, of the fal- 
lacies of fenfe. He warns us to throw off its prejudices, and to 
attend only, with our intelled, to the ideas implanted there. By 
this means we may perceive, that the nature of matter does not 
confift in hardnefs, colour, weight, or any of thofe things that af- 

S 2 fea 

I40 . E S S A Y II. 

ctlAP.vni. fe£^ Q^f fenfes, but ixi this only, that it is fomething extended in 
length, breadth, and depth. The fenfes, he fays, are only rela- 
tive to our prefent Hate ; they exhibit things only, as they tend 
to profit or to hurt us, and rarely, and by accident only, as they 
are in themfelves. 


It was probably owing to an averfion to admit any thing into 
philofophy, of which we have not a clear and diftincfl conception, 
that Des Cartes was led to deny, that there is any fubllance of 
matter diftindl from thofe qualities of it which we perceive. We 
fay, that matter is fomething extended, figured, moveable. Ex- 
tenfion, figure, mobility, therefore, are not matter, but qualities, 
belonging to this fomething, which we call matter. Des Cartjs 
could not relifh this obfcure fomething^ which is fuppofed to be 
the fubjedl ox fiihjlratum of thofe qualities ; and therefore maintain- 
ed, that extenfion is the very eflencc of matter. But as we muft 
afcribe extenfion to fpace as well as to matter, he found himfelf 
under a neceffity of holding, that fpace and matter are the fame 
thihg, and differ only in our way of conceiving them ; fb that, 
wherever there is fpace there is matter, and no void left in the uni- 
verfe. The neceffary confequence of this, is, that the material 
world has no bounds nor limits. He did not, however, chufe to 
call it infinite, but indefinite. 

It was probably owing to the fame caufe that Des Cartes made 
the elTence of the foul to confifl: in thought: He would not allov<r 
it to be an unknown fomething that has the power of thinking ; 
it cannot therefore be without thought : And as he conceived that 
there can be no thought without ideas, the foul mufb have had 
ideas in its firft formation, which, of confequence, are innate. 

The fentiments of thofe who came after Des Cartes, with re- 
gard to the nature of body and mind, have been various. Many 
have maintained, that body is only a coll^ion of qualities to which 
•we give jone name ; and that the notion of a fubjed of inhefion, 



to which thofe qualities belong, is only a fidlion of the mind. CHAP.viii. 
Some have even maintained, that the foul is only a fucceflion of 
related ideas, without any fubjedl of inhefion. It appears, by what 
has been faid, how far thefe notions are allied to the Cartefian 

The triumph of the Cartefian fyftem over that of Aristotle, 
is one of the moft remarkable revolutions in the hiftory of philo- 
fophy, and has led me to dwell longer upon it than the prefent fub- 
jedl perhaps required. The authority of Aristotle was now no 
more. That reverence for hard words and dark notions, by which 
mens underftanding had been ftrangled in early years, was turned 
into contempt, and every thing fufpedled which was not clearly 
and diftindlly underftood. This is the fpirit of the Cartefian phi- 
lofophy, and is a more important acquifition to mankind than any 
of its particular tenets ; and for exerting this fpirit fo zealoufly, 
and fpreading it fo fuccefsfully, Des Cartes deferves immortal 

It is to be obferved, however, that Des Cartes rejeded a part 
only of the ancient theory, concerning the perception of external 
objects by the fenfes, and that he adopted the other part. That 
theory may be divided into two parts : Th.Q Jirji^ that images, fpe- 
cies, or forms of external objedls, come from the obje<5l, and en- 
ter by the avenues of the fenfes to the mind ; the fecond part is. 
That the external obje<5l itfelf is not perceived, but only the fpe- 
cies or image of it in the mind. The firfl part Des Cartes and 
his followers rejedled, and refuted by folid arguments ; but the fe- 
cond part, neither he, nor his followers, have thought of calling 
in queftion ; being perfuaded, that it is only a reprefentative image, 
in the mind, of the external objedl that we perceive, and not the 
objecl itfelf. And this image, which the Peripatetics called a fpe- 
cies, he calls an idea, changing the name only, while he admits 
the thing. 


144 E S S A Y n. 

CHAP.Vlii . It feems ftrange, that the great pains which this Philofopher 
took to throw off the prejudices of education, to difmifs all his 
former opinions, and to aflent to nothing, till he found evidence that 
compelled his aflent, fliould not have led him to doubt of this opi- 
nion of the ancient philofophy. It is evidently a philofophical opi- 
nion; for the vulgar undoubtedly believe that it is the external ob- 
jecl which we immediately perceive, and not a reprefentative 
image of it only. It is for this reafon, that they look upon it as 
perfed lunacy to call in queftion the exiftence of external obje(5ls. 

It feems to be admitted as a fir ft principle by the learned and the 
unlearned, that what is really perceived muft exift, and that to 
perceive what does not exift is impofllble. So far the unlearned 
man and the Philofopher agree. The unlearned man fays, I per- 
ceive the external objedl, and I perceive it to exift. Nothing can 
be more abfurd than to doubt of it. The Peripatetic fays, what I 
perceive is the very identical form of the objedl, which came im- 
mediately from the objedl, and makes an imprefllon upon my 
mind, as a feal does upon wax; and therefore, I can have no doubt 
of the exiftence of an objedl whofe form I perceive. But what 
fays the Cartefian ? I perceive not, fays he, the external objeifl it- 
felf. So far he agrees with the Peripatetic, and differs from the 
unlearned man. But I perceive an image, or form, or idea, in my 
own mind, or in my brain. I am certain of the exiftence of the 
idea, becaufe I immediately perceive it. But how this idea is 
formed, or what it reprefents, is not felf-evident ; and therefore I 
muft find arguments, by which, from the exiftence of the idea 
which I perceive, I can infer the exiftence of an external obje(5l 
which it reprefents. 

As I take this to be a juft view of the principles of the unlearn- 
ed man, of the Peripatetic, and of the Cartefian, fo I think they 
all reafon confequentially from their feveral principles ; that the 
Cartefian has ftrong grounds to doubt of the exiftence of external 
objeds ; the Peripatetic very little ground of doubt ; and the un- 


learned man none at all : And that the dliFerence of their fituation CHAP.VIII. 
arifes from this, that the unlearned man has no hypothefis ; the 
Peripatetic leans upon an hypothefis j and the Cartefian upon one 
half of that hypothefis. 

Des Cartes, according to the fpirit of his own philofophy, 
ought to have doubted of both parts of the Peripatetic hypothefis, 
or to have given his reafons w^hy he adopted one part, as well as 
why he rejedted the other part ; efpecially, fince the unlearned, 
who have the faculty of perceiving objeifls by their fenfes in no 
lefs perfe(5lion than Philofophers, and fhould therefore know, as 
well as they, what it is they perceive, have been unanimous in 
this, that the objedls they perceive are not ideas in their own 
minds, but things external. It might have been expedled, that 
a Philofopher who was fo cautious as not to take his own exiftence 
for granted without proof, would not have taken it for granted, 
without proof, that every thing he perceived was only ideas in his 
own mind. 

But if Des Cartes made a rafli ftep in this, as I apprehend he 
did, he ought not to bear the blame alone. His fucceflbrs have 
flill continued in the fame track, and, after his example, have 
adopted one part of the ancient theory, to wit, that the obje<5ls 
we immediately perceive are ideas only. All their fyftems are 
bviilt on this foundation. 

Of the Sentiments of Mr LocKE. 

THE reputation which Locke's EfTay on human underftand- 
ing had at home from the beginning, and which it has 
gradually acquired abroad, is a fufficient teftimony of its merits 




CHAP. IX. There is perhaps no book of the metaphyfical kind that has been 
fo generaUy read by thofe who underfland the language, or that 
is more adapted to teach men to think with precifion, and to in- 
fpire them with that candour and love of truth, which is the ge- 
nuine fpirit of philofophy. He gave, I believe, the firft. example 
in the Englifli language of writing on fuch abflraft fubjedls, with 
a remarkable degree of Simplicity and perfpicuity ; and in this he 
has been happily imitated by others that came after him. No 
author hath more fuccefsfully pointed out the danger of ambigu- 
ous words, and the importance of having diflincft and determinate 
notions in judging and reafoning. His obfervations on the various 
powers of the human underflanding, on the ufe and abufe of words, 
and on the extent and limits of human knowledge, are drawn 
from attentive reflecflion on the operations of his own mind, the 
true fource of all real knowledge on thefe fubjedls ; and fliew an 
uncommon degree of penetration and judgment : But he needs no 
panegyric of mine, and I mention thefe things, only that, when I 
have occafion to differ from him, I may not be thought infenfible of 
the merit of an author whom I highly refpedt, and to whom I owe 
my firft lights in thofe ftudies, as well as my attachment to them. 

He fees out in his Eflay with a full convidlion, common to him 
with other Philofophers, that ideas in the mind are the objedls of 
all our thoughts in every operation of the underftanding. This 
leads him to ufe the word idea fo very frequently, beyond what 
was ufual in the Englifh language, that he thought it necefTary in 
his introdudlion to make this apology : " It being that term, fays 
*' he, which, I think, ferves beft to ftand for whatfoever is the 
" objedl of underftanding, when a man thinks ; I have ufed it to 
" exprefs whatever is meant by phantafm, notion, fpecies, or what- 
" ever it is which the mind can be employed about in thinkings 
'" and I could not avo'd frequently uling it. I prefume it will be 

granted me, that there are fuch ideas in mens minds ; every 
'* man is confcious of them in himfelf, and mens words and 
** ^dlions will fatisfy him that they are in others." 



Speaking of the reality of our knowledge, he fays, " It is evi- CHAP. IX. 
*' dent the mind knows not things immediately, but only by the 
*' intervention of the ideas it has of them : Our knowledge there- 
*' fore is real, only fo far as there is a conformity between our 
*' ideas and the reality of things. But what Ihall be here the cri- 
" terion? How fhall the mind, when it perceives nothing but its 
*' own ideas, know that they agree with things themfelves ? This, 
*' though it feems not to want difficulty, yet I think there be two 
" forts of ideas that we may be affured agree with things." 

We fee that Mr Locke was aware no lefs than Des Cartes, 
that the doctrine of ideas made it neceflary, and at the fame time 
difficult, to prove the exiftence of a material world without us ; 
becaufe the mind, according to that do(5lrine, perceives nothing 
but a world of ideas in itfelf. Not only Des Cartes, but Male- 
branche, Arnauld, and Norris, had perceived this difficulty, 
and attempted to remove it with little fuccefs. Mr Locke attempts 
the fame thing ; but his arguments are feeble. He even feems to be 
confcious of this : For he concludes his reafoning with this obfer- 
vation, " That we have evidence fufficient to dire(5l us in attaining 
" the good and avoiding the evil, caufed by external obje(5ls, and 
*' that this is the important concern we have in being made ac- 
*' quainted with them." This indeed is faying no more than will 
be granted by thofe who deny the exiftence of a material world. 

As there is no material difference between Locke and Des 
Cartes with regard to the perception of obje<5ls by the fenfes, 
there is the lefs occafion, in this place, to take notice of all their 
differences in other points. They differed about the origin of our 
ideas. Des Cartes thought fome of them were innate : The other 
maintained, that there are no innate ideas, and that they are all de- 
rived from two fources, to wit, fenfation and refleSfion ; meaning 
by fenfation, the operations of our external fenfes ; and by refledlion, 
that attention which we are capable of giving to the operations of 
pur own minds. 

T They 

146 ESSAY II. 

CHAP. IX. They difFered with regard to the efTence both of matter and of 
mind: The Britifli Philofopher holding, that. the real efTence of 
both is beyond the reach of human knowledge ; the other con- 
ceiving, that the very efTence of mind confifts in thought ; and that 
of matter in extenfion ; by which he made matter and fpace not to 
difFer in reality, and no part of fpace to be void of matter. 

• Mr Locke explained, more diftincftly than had been done before, 
the operations of the mind in clafling the various obje6ls of thought, 
and reducing them to genera and fpecies. He was the firfl, I think, 
who diflinguifhed in fubftances what he calls the nominal efTence, 
which is only the notion we form of a genus or fpecies, and which 
we exprefs by a definition ; from the real eflence or internal con- 
flitution of the thing, which makes it to be what it is. Without 
this diftindlion, the fubtile difputes which tortured the fchoolmen 
for fo many ages, in the controverfy between the nominalifts and 
realifls, could never be brought to an ifTue. He Ihews difkinclly 
how we form abflracfl and general notions, and the ufe and ne- 
ceffity of them in reafoning. And as (according to the received 
principles of Philofophers) every notion of our mind mufl have for 
its obje(fl an idea in the mind itfelf ; he thinks that we form ab- 
ftra(5l ideas by leaving out of the idea of an individual every thing 
wherein it differs from other individuals of the fame fpecies or 
genus ; and that this power of forming abflracft ideas, is that which 
chiefly diflinguifhes us from brute animals, in whom h.e could fee 
no evidence of any abflradl ideas. 

Since the time of Des Carte-s, Philofophers have differed inuch 
with regard to the fhare they afcribe to the mind itfelf, in the fa- 
brication of thofe reprefentative beings called idcas^ and the man- 
ner in which this work is carried on. 

Of the authors I have met with, Dr Robert Hook is the moft 
explicit. He was one of the mofl ingenious and aifkive members 
of the Royal Society of London at its firfl inflitution j and fre- 


quently read leflures to the Society, which were publiflicd among CHAP. ix. 
his poft humous works. In his ledlures upon light, Se6V. 7. he 
makes ideas to be material fubftances ; and thinks that the brain 
is furniflaed with a proper kind of matter for fabricating the ideas 
of each fenfe. The ideas of fight he thinks are formed of a kind 
of matter refembling the Bononian ftone, or fome kind of phof- 
phorus ; that the ideas of found are formed of fome matter refem- 
bling the chords or glalTes which take a found from the vibrations 
of the air; and fo of the reft. o jJ/... 

The foul, he thinks, may fabricate fome hundreds of thofe ideas 
in a day ; and that as they are formed, they are pufhed farther off 
from the centre of the brain where the foul refides. By this means 
they make a continued chain of ideas, coyled up in the brain, the 
firft end of which is fartheft removed from the centre or feat of 
the foul ; and the other end is always at the centre, being the laft 
idea formed, which is always prefent the moment when confidered; 
and therefore, according as there is a greater number of ideas be- 
tween the prefent fenfation or thought in the centre and any other, 
the foul is apprehenlive of a larger portion of time interpofed. 

Mr Locke has not entered into fo minute a detail of this manu- 
fadlure of ideas; but he afcribes to the mind a very confiderable 
hand in forming its own ideas. With regard to our fenfations, 
the mind is paffive, " they being produced in us, only by differ- 
*' ent degrees and modes of motion in our animal fpirits, vari- 
*' oufly agitated by external objecSIs :" Thefe, however, ceafe to be, 
as foon as they ceafe to be perceived ; but, by the faculties of me- 
mory and imagination, " the mind has an ability, when it wills, 
*' to revive them again, and, as it were, to paint them anew upon 
" itfelf, though fome with more, fome with lefs difficulty." 

As to the ideas of refledlion, he afcribes them to no other caufe 
but to that attention which the mind is capable of giving to its 
own operations ; Thefe, therefore, are formed by the mind itfelf. 

T 2 He 

148 ESSAY II. 

CHAP. IX. He afcrlbes like wife to the mind the power of compounding its 
fimple ideas into complex ones of various forms ; of repeating 
them, and adding the repetitions together ; of dividing and clafling 
them ; of comparing them, and, from that comparifon, of form- 
ing the ideas of their relation ; nay, of forming a general idea of 
a fpecies or genus, by taking from the idea of an individual eve- 
ry thing by which it is diftinguifhed from other individuals of the 
kind, till at laft it becomes an abftradl general idea, common to 
all the individuals of the kind. 

Thefe, I think, are the powers which Mr Locke afcribes to the 
mind itfelf in the fabrication of its ideas. Bilhop Berkeley, as 
we Ihall fee afterwards, abridged them confiderably, and Mr Hume 
much more. 

The ideas we have of the various qualities of bodies are not all, 
as Mr Locke thinks, of the fame kind. Some of them are images 
or refemblances of what is really in the body ; others are not. 
There are certain qualities infeparable from matter ; fuch as exten- 
iion, folidity, figure, mobility. Our ideas of thefe are real refem- 
blances of the qualities in the body ; and thefe he calls primary 
qualities : But colour, found, tafte, fmell, heat, and cold, he calls 
fecondary qualities, and thinks that they are only powers in bodies 
of producing certain fenfations in us ; which fenfations have no- 
thing refembling them, though they are commonly thought to be 
cxadl refemblances of fomething in the body. " Thus, fays he, 
*' the idea of heat or light, which we receive, by our eye or 
" touch, from the fun, are commonly thought real qualities exift- 
*' ing in the fun, and fomething more than mere powers in it." 

The names of primary and fecondary qualities, were, I believe, 
firft ufed by Mr Locke ; but the diftindion, which they exprefs, 
was well underftood by Des Cartes, and is explained by him in 
his Pr'wcipia^ part 1. fe<5^. 69, 70, 71, 



Although no author has more merit than Mr Locke, in point- chap. ix. 
ing out the ambiguity of words, and refolving, by that means, 
many knotty queflions, which had tortured the wits of the fchool- 
men ; yet, I apprehend he has been fometimes mifled by the am- 
biguity of the word idea^ which he ufes fo often almoft in every 
page of his eflay. 

In the exphcation given of this word, we took notice of two 
meanings given to it ; a popular and a philofophical. In the po- 
pular meaning, to have an idea of any thing, (ignifies nothing 
more than to think of it. 

Although the operations of the mind are mofl properly and na- 
turally, and indeed moft commonly in all vulgar languages, ex- 
prelTed by adlive verbs, there is another way of expreffing them 
lefs common, but equally well underftood. To think of a thing, 
and to have a thought of it ; to believe a thing, and to have a be- 
lief of it ; to fee a thing, and have a fight of it ; to conceive a 
thing, and to have a conception, notion, or idea of it, are phrafes 
perfed^ly fynonymous. In thefe phrafes, the thought means no- 
thing but the a(5l of thinking ; the belief, the adl of believing ; 
and the conception, notion, or idea, the adl of conceiving. To 
have a clear and diftindl idea, is, in this fenfe, nothing elfe but to 
conceive the thing clearly and diflindlly. When the word idea is 
taken in this popular fenfe, there can be no doubt of our having 
ideas in our minds. To think without ideas would be to think 
without thought, which is a manifeft contradidlion. 

But there is another meaning of the word idea peculiar to Philo- 
fophers, and grounded upon a philofophical theory, which the 
vulgar never think of. Philofophers, ancient and modern, have 
maintained, that the operations of the mind, like the tools of an 
artificer, can only be employed upon obje(51s that are prefent, in 
the mind, or in the brain, where the mind is fuppofed to refide. 
Therefore, objedls that are diflant, in time or place, mufl have a 


ijo ESSAY II. 

CHAP. IX. leprefeiitatlve in the mind, or in the brain ; fome image or pidlure 
of them, wliich is the objedl that the mind contemplates. This 
reprefcntative image was, in the old philofophy, called n /pedes or 
phantaffn. Since the time of Des Cartls, it has more commonly 
been called an idea; and every thought is conceived to have an 
idea of its objecfl. As this has been a common opinion among 
Philofophers, as far back as we can trace philofophy, ic is the lefs 
to be wondered at, that they fhould be apt to confound the opera- 
tion of the mind in thinking, with the idea or obje(5l of thought, 
which is fuppofed to be its infeparable concomitant. 

If we pay any regard to the common fenfe of mankind, thought 
and the obje«5l of thought are different things, and ought to be di- 
ftinguifhed. It is true, thought cannot be without an object ; for 
every man who thinks muft think of fomething ; but the objedl he 
thinks of is one thing, his thought of that objedl is another thing. 
They are diflinguiflied in all languages even by the vulgar; and 
many things may be affirmed of thought, that is, of the opera- 
tion of the mind in thinking, which cannot without error, and 
even abfurdity, be affirmed of the objedl of that operation. 

From this, I think it is evident, that if the word idea^ in a work 
where it occurs in every paragraph, is ufed without any intima- 
tion of the ambiguity of the word, fometimes to fignify thought, 
or the operation of the mind in thinking, fometimes to fignify thofe 
internal objedls of thought which Philofophers fuppofc, this muft 
occafion confufion in the thoughts both of the author and of the 
readers. I take this to be the greateft blemifh in the EfTay on hu- 
man underftanding. I apprehend this is the true fource of feve- 
rai paradoxical opinions in that excellent work, which I Ihall have 
occafion to take notice of. 

Here it is very natural to aflc, Whether it was Mr Locke's opi- 
nion, that ideas are the only objedls of thought ? or, Whether it 
is not poffible for men to think of things which are not ideas in the 
mind ? 



To this queftlon ic is not eafy to give a diredl anfwer. On the CHap^X. 
one hand, he fays often, in diflincfl and ftudied expreflions, that 
the term idea ftands for whatever is the objedl of the underftand- 
ing when a man thinks, or whatever it is which the mind can be 
employed about in thinking : That the mind perceives nothing but 
its own ideas : That all knowledge confifts in the perception of the 
agreement or difagreement of our ideas : That we can have no 
knowledge farther than we have ideas. Thefe, and many other 
expreflions of the like import, evidently imply, that every obje(5l 
of thought muft be an idea, and can be nothing elfe. 

On the other hand, I am perfuaded that Mr Locke would have 
acknowledged, that we may think of Alexander the Great, or 
of the planet Jupiter, and of numberlefs things, which he would 
have owned are not ideas in the mind, but objedls which exift in- 
dependent of the mind that thinks of them. 

How fhall we reconcile the two parts of this apparent contra- 
di<flion ? All I am able to fay upon Mr Locke's principles to recon- 
cile them, is this, That we cannot think of Alexander, or of the 
planet Jupiter, unlefs we have in our minds an idea, that is, an 
image or picture of thofe objec5ls. The idea of Alexander is an 
image, or pi<fture, or reprefentation of that hero in my mind ; and 
this idea is the immediate objedl of my thought when I think of 
Alexander. That this was Locke's opinion, and that it has 
been generally the opinion of Philofophers, there can be no doubt. 

But, inftead of giving light to the queftion propofed, it feems 
to involve it in greater darknefs. 

When I think of Alexander, I am told there is an image or 
idea of Alexander in my mind, which is the immediate objedl 
of this thought. The necefliiry confequence of this feems to be, 
that there are two objects of this thought ; the idea, which is in 
the mind, and the perfon reprefented by that idea ; the firft, the 




CHAP. IX. immediate obje<5l of the thought, the laft, the objedl of the 
fame thought, but not the immediate objedl. This is a hard fay- 
ing ; for it makes every thought of things external to have a double 
objedl. Every man is confcious of his thoughts, and yet, upon 
attentive refledlion, he perceives no fuch duplicity in the objedl he 
thinks about. Sometimes men fee objecfls double, but they always 
know when they do fo : And I know of no Philofopher who has 
exprefsly owned this duplicity in the obje<fl of thought, though it 
follows neceffarily from maintaining, that, in the fame thought, 
there is one objedl, that is immediate and in the mind itfelf, and 
another obje(5t, which is not immediate, and which is not in the 

Befides this, it feems very hard, or rather impofUble, to under- 
(land what is meant by an objedl of thought, that is not an imme- 
diate objedl of thought. A body in motion may move another 
that was at reft, by the medium of a third body that is interpofed. 
This is eafily underftood ; but we are unable to conceive any me- 
dium interpofed between a mind and the thought of that mind ; 
and, to think of any objedl by a medium, feems to be words 
without any meaning. There is a fenfe in which a thing may be 
faid to be perceived by a medium. Thus any kind of fign may 
be faid to be the medium by which I perceive or underftand the 
thing fignified. The fign, by cuftom, or compadl, or perhaps 
by nature, introduces the thought of the thing fignified. But 
here the thing fignified, when it is introduced to the thought, is 
an objedl of thought no lefs immediate than the fign was before : 
And there are here two objedls of thought, one fucceeding another, 
■which we have fhown is not the cafe with refpedl to an idea, and 
the objedl it reprefents, 

I apprehend, therefore, that if Philofophers will maintain that 
ideas in the mind are the only immediate objedls of thought, they 
will be forced to grant that they are the fole objedls of thought, 
and that it is impoflible for men to think of any thing elfe. Yet, 



furely, Mr Locke believed that we can think of many things that CHAP. IX. 
are not ideas in the mind ; but he feems not to have perceived, 
that the maintaining that ideas in the mind are the only immediate 
objedts of thought, muft necefTarily draw this confequence along 
with it. 

The confequence, however, was feen by Bifhop Berkeley and 
Mr Hume, who rather chofe to admit the confequence than to 
give up the principle from which it follows. 

Perhaps it was unfortunate for Mr Locke, that he ufed the word 
idea fo very frequently, as to make it very difficult to give the at- 
tention neceflary to put it always to the fame meaning. And it 
appears evident, that, in many places, he means nothing more 
by it but the notion or conception we have of any objefl of thought; 
that is, the adl of the mind in conceiving it, and not the objedl 

In explaining this word, he fays, that he ufes it for whatever is 
meant by phantafm, notion, fpecies. Here are three fynonymes 
to the word idea. The firfl: and laft are very proper to exprefs the 
philofophical meaning of the word, being terms of art in the Pe- 
ripatetic philofophy, and fignifying images of external things in 
the mind, which, according to that philofophy, are objects of 
thought. But the word notion is a word in common language, 
whofe meaning agrees exadlly with the popular meaning of the 
word idea^ but not with the philofophical. 

When thefe two different meanings of the word idea are con- 
founded in a fludied explication of it, there is little reafon to expedl 
that they fhould be carefully diflinguifhed in the frequent ufe of 
it. There are many paffages in the Effay, in which, to make them 
intelligible, the word idea muft be taken in one of thofe fenfes, 
and many others, in which it muft be taken in the other. It feems 
probable, that the author, not attending to this ambiguity of the 

U word. 

154 E S S A Y n. 

CHA P. IX . •vvord, ufed it in the one fenfe or the other, as the fubjed-matter 
required ; and the far greater part of his readers have done the 

There is a third fenfe, in which he ufes the word not unfre- 
quently, to fignify objeds of thought that are not in the mind, 
but external. Of this he feems to be fenfible, and fomewhere 
makes an apology for it. When he affirms, as he does in innu- 
merable places, that all human knowledge confifts in the percep- 
tion of the agreement or difagreement of our ideas, it is impoffible 
to put a meaning upon this, confident with his principles, unlefs 
he means by ideas every objed of human thought, whether me- 
diate or immediate; every thing, in a word, that can be fignified 
by the fubjedl, or predicate of a propofition. 

Thus we fee, that the word Idea has three different meanings in 
the Effay ; and the author feems to have ufed it fometimes in one, 
fometimes in another, without being aware of any change in the 
meaning. The reader flides eafily into the fame fallacy, that 
meaning occurring mofl: readily to his mind which gives the beft 
fenfe to what he reads. I have met with perfons profefFing no 
flight acquaintance with the EfTay on human underftanding, who 
maintained, that the word idea^ wherever it occurs, means no- 
thing more than thought ; and that where he fpeaks of ideas as 
images in the mind, and as obje(5ls of thought, he is not to be un- 
derflood as fpeaking properly, but figuratively or analogically : 
And indeed I apprehend, that it would be no fmall advantage to 
many paffages in the book, if they could admit of this interpre- 

It is not the fault of this Philofopher alone to have given too 
little attention to the diflindlion between the operations of the 
mind and the objecls of thofe operations. Although this dlftinc- 
tion be familiar to the vulgar, and found in the flrudlure of aU 
languages, Philofophers, when they fpeak of ideas, often confound 



the two together ; and their theory concerning ideas has led them CHAP. ix. 

to do fo : For ideas being fuppofed to be a fhadowy kind of beings, ' 

intermediate between the thought, and the objedl of thought, fome- 

times feem to coalefce with the thought, fometimes with the obje(5l 

of thought, and fometimes to have a diftind exiflence of their 


The fame philofophical theory of ideas has led Philofophers to 
confound the different operations of the underftanding, and to call 
them all by the name of perception. Mr Locke, though not free 
from this fault, is not fo often chargeable with it, as fome who 
came after him. The vulgar give the name of perception to that 
immediate knowledge of external objedls which we have by our 
external fenfes. This is its proper meaning in our language, though 
fometimes it may be applied to other things metaphorically or ana- 
logically. When I think of any thing that does not exift, as of 
the republic of Oceana, I do not perceive it ; I only conceive or 
imagine it : When I think of what happened to me yefterday, I do 
not perceive but remember it : When I am pained with the gout, 
it is not proper to fay I perceive the pain ; I feel it ; or am confci- 
ous of it : It is not an objedl of perception, but of fenfation and of 
confcioufnefs. So far the vulgar diftinguifh very properly the dif- 
ferent operations of the mind, and never confound the names of 
things fo different in their nature : But the theory of ideas leads 
Philofophers to conceive all thofe operations to be of one nature, 
and to give them one name : They are all, according to that theory, 
the perception of ideas in the mind. Perceiving, remembering, 
imagining, being confcious, are all perceiving ideas in the mind, 
and are called perceptions. Hence it is that Philofophers fpeak of 
the perceptions of memory, and the perceptions of imagination. 
They make fenfation to be a perception ; and every thing we per- 
ceive by our fenfes to be an idea of fenfation : Sometimes they fay, 
that they are confcious of the ideas in their own minds, fometimes 
that they perceive them. 

U 2 However 

156 E S S A Y ir. 

CHAP. X- However Improbable it may appear tha.t Philofophers, who have 
taken pains to fludy the operations of their own minds, {hould ex- 
prefs them lefs properly, and lefs diftindlly than the vulgar, it 
feems really to be the cafe ; and the only account that can be given 
of this flrange phaenomenon, I take to be this: That the vulgar 
leek no theory to account for the operations of their minds ; they 
know that they fee, and hear, and remember, and imagine ; and 
thofe who think diftindlly will exprefs thefe operations diftindly, 
as their confcioufnefs reprefents them to the mind : But Philofophers 
think they ought to know not only that there are fuch operations, 
but how they are performed ; how they fee, and hear, and remem- 
ber, and imagine; and, having invented a theory to explain thefe 
operations, by ideas or images in the mind, they fuit their expref^ 
lions to their theory ; and as a falfe comment throws a cloud upon 
the text, fo a falfe theory darkens the phsenomena which it attempts 
to explain. 

We fhall examine this theory afterwards. Here I would only 
obferve, that if it is not true, it may be expeded that it ihould 
lead ingenious men who adopt it to confound the operations of the 
mind with their objedls, and with one another, even where the 
common language of the unlearned clearly diftinguiflies them. 
One that trufts to a falfe guide is in greater danger of being led 
aftray than he who trufts his own eyes, though he fhould be but 
indifferently acquainted with the road. 


Of the Sentiments of B'tjhop Berkeley. 

GEORGE BERKELEY, afterwards Bifhop of Cloyne, pub- 
liflied his new Theory of Vifion in 1709; his Treatife on 
the Principles of Human Knowledge in 1710; and his Dialogues 



between Hylas and Philonous in 1713; being then a Fellow of pHAP. X. 

Trinity College, Dublin. He is acknowledged viniverfally to have 

great merit as an excellent writer, and a very acute and clear rea- 

foner on the mod abllradl fubjeds, not to fpeak of his virtues as 

a man, which were very confpicuous : Yet the dodrine chiefly 

held forth in the Treatifes above mentioned, efpecially in the two 

laft, has generally been thought fo very abfurd, that few can be 

brought to think that he either believed it himfelf, or that he feri^ 

oufly meant to perfuade others of its truth. 

.He maintains, and thinks he has demonflrated, by a variety of 
arguments, grounded on principles of philofophy univerfally re- 
ceived, that there is no fuch thing as matter in the univerfe; that 
fun and moon, earth and fea, our own bodies, and thofe of our 
friends, are nothing but ideas in the minds of thofe \yho think q^ 
them, and th*it tliey have no exiflence when they ^e not the 
pbjedls of thought; that all that is in the univerfe may be redur 
ced to two categories, to wit, minds, and ideas in the mind. 

But however ^bfiird this dodtrine might appear to the unlearned, 
who confider the exiftence of the objects of fenfe as the moft evi- 
dent of all truths, and what no man in his fenfes can doubt ; the 
Philofophers who had been accuftomed to confider ideas as the im- / 
mediate objedts of all thought, had no title to view this do(5lrine 
of Berkeley in fo unfavourable a light. 

They were taught by Des Cartes, and by all that came after 
him, that the exiftence of the objeifls of fenfe is not felf-evident, 
but requires to be proved by arguments ; and although Des 
Cartes, and many others, had laboured to find arguments for 
this purpofe, there did not appear to be that force and clearnefs in 
them which might have been expefted in a matter of fuch im^ 
portance. Mr Norris had declared, that after all the argument* 
that had been offered, the exiftence of an external world is only 
probable, but by no means certain. Malebranche thought it 


158 ESSAY II. 

CHAP. X. Tefted upon the authority of revelation, and that the arguments 
drawn from reafon were not perfedlly conclufive. Others thought, 
that the argument from revelation was a mere fophifm, becaufe 
revelation comes to us by our fenfes, and mud reft upon their au- 

Thus we fee, that the new philofophy had been making gradual 
approaches towards Berkeley's opinion ; and, whatever others 
might do, the Philofophers had no title to look upon it as abfurd, 
or unworthy of a fair examination. Several authors attempted 
to anfwer his arguments, but with little fuccefs, and others ac- 
knowledged that they could neither anfwer them nor affent to 
them. It is probable the Bifhop made but few converts to his 
dodlrine ; but it is certain he made fome ; and that he himfelf 
continued, to the end of his life, firmly perfuaded, not only of 
its truth, but of its great importance for the improvement of hu- 
man knowledge, and efpecially for the defence of religion. Dial. 
Pref. *' If the principles which I here endeavour to propagate are 
admitted for true, the confequences which I think evidently 
flow from thence are, that atheifm and fcepticifm will be utter- 
ly deftroyed, many intricate points made plain, great difficul- 
ties folved, feveral ufelefs parts of fcience retrenched, fpecula- 
tion referred to pradlice, and men reduced from paradoxes to 
common fenfe." 

In the Theory of vifion, he goes no farther than to afTert that 
the objedls of fight are nothing but ideas in the mind, granting, 
or at leaft not denying, that there is a tangible world, which is 
really external, and which exifts whether we perceive it or not. 
Whether the reafon of this was, that his fyftem had not, at that 
time, wholly opened to his own mind, or whether he thought it 
prudent to let it enter into the minds of his readers by degrees, 
I cannot fay. I think he infinuates the laft as the reafon in the 
Principles of human knowledge. 



The Theory of vifion, however, taken by itfelf, and without re- CHA P. X. 
latlon to the main branch of his fyftem, contains very important clif- 
coveries, and marks of great genius. Hediftinguiflies, more accurate- 
ly than any that wentbefore'hlm, between the immediate objeds of 
fight, and thofe of the other fenfes which are early affociated with 
them. He fhews, that diftance, of itfelf, and Immediately, is not 
feen ; but that we learn to judge of it by certain fenfations and 
perceptions which are connedled with it. This is a very important 
obfcrvation ; and, I believe, was firft made by this author. It 
gives much new light to the operations of our fenfes, and ferves 
to account for many phaenomena in optics, of which the greateft 
adepts in that fcience had always either given a falfe account, or 
acknowledged that they could give none at all. 

We may obferve, by the way," that the ingenious author feems 
not to have attended to a diftindion, by which his general afler- 
tion ought to have been limited. It is true that the diftance of 
an objedl from the eye is not immediately feen; but there is a 
certain kind of diftance of one objedl from another which we fee 
immediately. The author acknowledges, that there is a vifible 
extenfion, and vifible figures, which are proper objedls of fight ; 
there muft therefore be a vifible diftance. Aftronomers call it 
angular diftance ; and although they meafure it by the angle, 
which is made by two lines drawn from the eye to the two diftant 
objedls, yet it is immediately perceived by fight, even by thofe 
who never thought of that angle. 

He led the way in Ihewing how. we learn to perceive the diftance 
of an objedl from the eye, though this fpeculation was carried 
farther by others who came after him. He made the diftindion 
between that extenfion and figure which we perceive by fight on.- 
ly, and that which we perceive by touch ; calling the firft, vifible, 
the laft, tangible extenfion and figure. He Ihewed likewife, that 
tangible extenfion, and not vifible, is the objed of geometry, al- 


i6o " ESSAY II. 

2^t*i^ though Mathematicians commonly ufe vifible diagrams in their 

The notion of extenfion and figure which we get from fight 
only, and that which we get from touch, have been fo conftant- 
ly conjoined from our infancy in all the judgments we form of 
the objedls of fenfe, that it required great abilities to diftin- 
guifh them accurately, and to affign to each fenfe what truly be- 
longs to it ; " fo difficult a thing it is," as Berkeley juftly ob- 
ferves, " to difl!blve an union fo early begun, and confirmed by 
*' fo long a habit." This point he has laboured, through the 
whole of the ElTay on vifion, with that uncommon penetration 
and judgment which he poflefled, and with as great fuccefs as 
could be expe(Sled in a firfl attempt upon fo abftrufe a fubjedl. 

He concludes this EfFay, by fhewing, in no lefs than feven fec- 
tions, the notions which an intelligent being, endowed with fight, 
without the fenfe of touch, might form of the objec5ls of fenfe. 
This fpeculation, to fliallow thinkers, may appear to be egregious 
trifling,' To Biftiop Berkeley it appeared in another light, and 
will do fo to thofe who are capable of entering into it, and who 
know the importance of it, in folving many of the phsenomena of 
vifion. He feems, indeed, to have exerted more force of genius 
in this than in the main branch of his fyflem. 

In the new philofophy, the pillars by which the exiftence of a 
material world was fupported, were fo feeble, that it did not re- 
quire the force of a Samson to bring them down ; and in this 
we have not fo much reafon to admire the ftrength of Berkeley's 
genius, as his boldncfs in publiftiing to the world an opinion, 
which the unlearned would be apt to interpret as the fign of a crazy 
intelleifl. A man who was firmly perfuaded of the dodlrine uni- 
verfally received by Philofophers concerning ideas, if he could but 
take courage to call in qvieftion the exiftence of a material world, 
would eafily find unanfwerable arguments in that dodlrine. " Some 

" truths 


" truths there are, fays Berkeley, fo near and obvious to the CHAP. X.^ 

" mind, that a man need only open his eyes to fee them. Such, 

*' he adds, I take this important one to be, that all the choir of 

** heaven, and furniture of the earth ; in a word, all thofe bodies 

** which compofe the mighty frame of the world, have not any 

*' fubfiftence without a mind." Princ. § 6. 

The principle from which this important concluflon is obvioufly 
deduced, is laid down in the firft fentence of his principles of 
knowledge as evident ; and indeed it has always been acknow- 
ledged by Philofophers. " It is evident, fays he, to any one who 
takes a furvey of the objedls of human knowledge, that they 
are either ideas adlually imprinted on the fenfes, or elfe fuch as 
are perceived, by attending to the paffions and operations of the 
mind ; or, laftly, ideas formed by help of memory and imagina- 
tion, either compounding, dividing, or barely reprefenting thofe 
originally perceived in the forefaid ways." 

This is the foundation on which the whole fyftem refts. If this 
be true ; then, indeed, the exiftence of a material world muft be 
a dream that has impofed upon all mankind from the beginning 
of the world. 

The foundation on which fuch a fabric refts ought to be very 
folid, and well eftablifhed ; yet Berkeley fays nothing more for it 
than that it is evident. If he means that it is felf-evident ; this, 
indeed, might be a good rcafon for not offering any dire6l argu- 
ment in proof of it. But I apprehend this cannot jnftlybe faid. 
Self-evident propofitions are thofe which appear evident to every 
man of found underftanding who apprehends the meaning of them 
diftin(5tly, and attends to them without prejudice. Can this be 
faid of this propofition, that all the objeds of our knowledge are 
ideas in our own minds ? I believe, that, to any man uninftruifled 
in philofophy, this propofition will appear very improbable, if not 
abfurd. However fcanty his knowledge may be, he confiders the 

X fun 

i6a ESSAY II. 

CHA P. X. fun and moon, the earth and fea, as objeds of it : And it will be 
difficult to perfuade him, that thofc objedls of his knowledge are 
ideas in his own mind, and have no exiftence, when he does not 
think of them. If I may prefumc to fpeak my own fentiments, I 
once believed this do<5lrine of ideas fo firmly, as to embrace the 
whole of Berkeley's fyftem in confequence of it ; till, finding 
^ther confequences to follow from it, which gave me more unea- 
finefs than the want of a material world, it came into my mind> 
more than forty years ago, to put the queftion. What evidence 
have I for this do<5lrine, that all the objecfls of my knowledge are 
ideas in my own mind ? From that time to the prefent, I have 
been candidly and impartially, as I think, feeking for the evidence 
of this principle, but can find none, excepting the authority of 

We fhall have occafion to examine its evidence afterwards. I 
would at prefent only obferve, that all the arguments brought by 
Berkeley againft the exirtence of a material world are grounded 
upon it ; and that he has not attempted to give any evidence for 
it, but takes it for granted, as other Philofophers had done before 

But fuppofing this principle to be true, Berkeley's fyftem is 
impregnable. No demonftration can be more evident than his rea- 
foning from it. Whatever is perceived is an idea, and an idea can 
only exift in a mind. It has no exiftence when it is not perceived ; 
nor can there be any thing like an idea, but an idea. 

So fenfible he was, that it required no laborious reafbning to de- 
duce his fyftem from the principle laid down, that he was afraid of 
being thought needlefsly prolix in handling the fubjedl, and makes 
an apology for it. Princ. ^22. " To what purpofe is it, fays he, 
" to dilate, upon that which may be demonftrated, with the utmoft^ 
• " evidence, in a line or two, to any one who is capable of the 
" leaft reflection." But though his demonftration might have been 





comprehended in a line or two, he very prudently thought, that CHAP. X.^ 
an opinion, which the world would be apt to look upon as a mon- 
fter of abfurdity, would not be able to make its way at once, even 
by the force of a naked demonftration. He obferves juftly. Dial. 2. 
That though a demonftration be never fo well grounded, and 
fairly propofed, yet, if there is, withal, a ftrain of prejudice, 
or a wrong bias on the underftanding, can it be expedled to per- 
** ceive clearly, and adhere firmly to the truth ? No ; there is need 
** of time and pains ; the attention muft be awakened and detain- 
** ed, by a frequent repetition of the fame thing, placed often in 
** the fame, often in different lights." 

It was therefore neceffary to dwell upon it, and turn it on all 
fides till it became familiar ; to confider all its confequences, and 
to obviate every prejudice and prepoffeflion that might hinder its 
admittance. It was even a matter of fome difficulty to fit it to 
common language, fo far as to enable men to fpeak and reafon 
about it intelligibly. Thofe who have entered ferioufly into Ber- 
keley's fyftem, have found, after the all afliftance which his wri- 
tings give, that time and practice are neceffary to acquire the ha- 
bit of fpeaking and thinking diftin<5lly upon it. 

Berkeley forefaw the oppofition that would be made to his 
fyftem, from two different quarters ; jirji^ from the Philofophers ; 
and, fecondly^ from the vulgar, who are led by the plain dicflates of 
nature. The firft he had the courage to oppofe openly and avow- 
edly ; the fecond he dreaded much more, and therefore takes a 
great deal of pains, and, I think, ufes fome art, to court into his 
party. This is particularly obfervable in his Dialogues. He fets 
out with a declaration. Dial. i. " That, of late, he had quitted 
" feveral of the fublime notions he had got in the fchools of the 
" Philofophers for vulgar opinions," and affures Hylas, his fel- 
low-dialogift, " That, fince this revolt from metaphyfical notions 
*' to the plain didlates of nature, and common fenfe, he found his * 
'* underftanding ftrangely enlightened ; fo that he could now eafily 

X 2 " comprehend 

i64 E S S A Y II. 

CHAP. X.^ « comprehend a great many things, which before were all myfte- 
" ry and riddle." Pref. to Dial. " If his principles are admitted for 
" true, men will be reduced from paradoxes to common fenfe." 
At the fame time, he acknowledges, " That they carry with them 
" a great oppofition to the prejudices of Philofophers, which have 
" fo far prevailed againft the common fenfe and natural notions of 
" mankind." 

When Hylas objedls to him, Dial. 3. " You can never per- 
" fuade me Phtlonous, that the denying of matter or corporeal 
" fubftance is not repugnant to the univerfal fenfe of mankind." 
He anfwers, " I wilh both our opinions were fairly ftated, and fub- 
" mitted to the judgment of men who had plain common fenfe, 
" without the prejudices of a learned education. Let me be re- 
" prefented as one who trufts his fenfes, who thinks he knows the 
" things he fees and feels, and entertains no doubt of their exift- 
" ence. — If by material fubftance is meant only fenfible body, that 
" which is feen and felt, (and the unphilofophical part of the 
" world, I dare fay mean no more), then I am more certain of 
" matter's exiftence than you or any other Philofopher pretend to 
" be. If there be any thing which makes the generality of man- 
" kind averfe from the notions I efpoufe, it is a mifapprehenfion 
" that I deny the reality of fenfible things : But as it is you who 
" are guilty of that, and not I, it follows, that, in truth, their 
" averfion is againft your notions, and not mine. — I am content to 
" appeal to the common fenfe of the world for the truth of my no- 
" tion. — I am of a vulgar caft, funple enough to believe my fenfes, 
" and to leave things as I find them. — I cannot, for my life, help 
" thinking, that fnow is white, and fire hot." 

When Hylas is at laft entirely converted, he obferves to Pur- 
LONOUS, " After all, the controverfy about matter, in the ftri<5l ac- 
" ceptation of it, lies altogether between you and the Philofophers, 
" whofe principles, I acknow^ledge, are not near fo natural, or fo agree- 
" able to the common fenfe of mankind, and holy fcripture, as yours." 



Philonous obferves in the end, " That he does not pretend to be CHA P, x.^ 

" a fetter up of new notions, his endeavours tend only to unite, 

" and to place in a clearer light, that truth which was before 

" fhared between the vulgar and the Philofophers ; the former 

*' being of opinion, that thofe things they immediately perceive 

" are the real things ; and the latter, that the things immediately 

" perceived are ideas which exift only in the mind ; which two . 

" things put together do, in efFedl, conflitute the fubftance of what 

" he advances :" And he concludes by obferving, " That thofe 

" principles, which at firfl view lead to fcepticifm, purfued to a 

" certain point, bring men back to common fenfe." 

Thefe pafTages fliow fufficiently the author's concern to reconcile 
his fyftem to the plain dictates of nature and common fenfe, while 
he exprefles no concern to reconcile it to the received dodlrines of 
Philofophers. He is fond to take part with the, vulgar againft the 
Philofophers, and to vindicate common fenfe againft their innova- 
tions. What pity is it that he did not carry this fufpicion of the 
dodlrine of Philofophers fo far as to doubt of that philofophical 
tenet on which his whole fyftem is built, to wit, that the things 
immediately perceived by the fenfes are ideas which exift only in 
the mind ! 

After all, it feems no eafy matter to make the vulgar opinion 
and that of Berkeley to meet. And to accomplifti this, he feems 
to me to draw each out of its line towards the other, not without 
fome ftraining. 

The vulgar opinion he reduces to this, that the very things which 
we perceive by our fenfes do really exift. This he grants: For 
thefe things, fays he, are ideas in our minds, or complexions af 
ideas, to which we give one name, and confider as one thing ; 
thefe are the immediate objeds of fenfe, and thefe do really exift. 
As to the notion, that thofe things have an abfolute external ex- 
iftence, independent of being perceived by any mind, he thinks 


i66 ESSAY II. 

CHAP. X. that this is no notion of the vulgar, but a refinement of Philofo- 
phers ; and that the notion of material fubflance, as a Juhjlratum^ 
or fupport of that colledion of fenfible qualities to which we give 
the name of an apple or a melon, is likewife an invention of Phi- 
lofophers, and is not found with the vulgar till they are inftrudled 
by Philofophers. The fubflance not being an obje(fl of fenfe, the 
vulgar never think of it ; or, if they are taught the ufe of the 
word, they mean no more by it but that colle<flion of fenfible qua- 
lities which they, from finding them conjoined in nature, have 
been accuflomed to call by one name, and to confider as one thing. 

Thus he draws the vulgar opinion near to his own ; and, that 
he may meet it half way, he acknowledges, that material things 
have a real exiflence out of the mind of this or that perfon ; but 
the queflion, fays he, between the materialifl and me, is. Whether 
they have an abfolute exiftence diflindl from their being perceived 
by God, and exterior to all minds ? This indeed, he fays, fome 
Heathens and Philofophers have aflSrmed ; but whoever entertains 
notions of the Deity, fuitable to the holy fcripture, will be of ano- 
ther opinion. 

But here an objedlion occurs, which it required all his inge- 
nuity to anfwer. It is this : The ideas in my mind cannot be the 
fame with the ideas of any other mind j therefore, if the obje<Sls I 
perceive be only ideas, it is impofTible that the objedls I perceive 
can exifl any where, when I do not perceive them ; and it is im- 
poflible that two or more minds can perceive the fame objedl. 

To this Berkeley anfwers, that this objedlion prefTes no lefs 
the opinion of the materialifl Philofopher than his : But the diffi- 
culty is to make his opinion coincide with the notions of the vulgar, 
who are firmly perfuaded, that the very identical obje<fls which 
they perceive, continue to exifl when they do not perceive them ; 
and who are no lefs firmly perfuaded, that when ten men look at 
the fun or the moon, they all fee the fame individual objed. 



To reconcile this repugnancy, he obferves, Dial. 3. " That if CHAP.X.^ 

the ttvra fame be taken in the vulgar acceptation, it is certain, 

(and not at all repugnant to the principles he maintains,) that 

different perfons may perceive the fame thing ; or the fame thing 

or idea exift in different minds. Words are of arbitrary impo- 

fition ; and fince men are ufed to apply the word fame^ where 

no difl:in(5lion or variety is perceived, and he does not pretend 

to alter their perceptions, it follows, that as men have faid be- 

ioxty fever al faw the fame thing', fo they may, upon like occalions, 

ftill continue to ufe the fame phrafe without any deviation, either 

from propriety of language or the truth of thiings : But if the 

term fame be ufed in the acceptation of Philofophers, who 

pretend to an abftradled notion of identity, then, according* 

to their fundry definitions of this term, (for it is not yet agreed 

wherein that philofophic identity confifts,) it may or may not 

be pofllble for divers perfons to perceive the fame thing : But 

whether Philofophers fhall think fit to call a thing the fame or 

no, is, I conceive, of fmall importance. Men may difpute about 

identity and diverfity, without any real difference in their 

thoughts and opinions, abftradled from names." 

Upon the whole, I apprehend that Berkeley has carried this 
attempt to reconcile his fyftem to the vulgar opinion farther than 
reafon fupports him ; and he was no doubt tempted to do fo, from 
a juft apprehenfion that, in a controverfy of this kind, the common 
fenfe of mankind is the moft formidable antagonift. 

Berkeley has employed much pains and ingenuity to fhow 
that his fyftem, if received and believed, would not be attended 
with thofe bad confequences in the condud of life which fuperficial 
thinkers may be apt to impute to it. His fyftem does not take 
away or make any alteration upon our pleafures or our pains : Our 
fenfations, whether agreeable or difagreeable, are the fame upon 
his fyftem as upon any other. Thefe are real things, and the only 
things that intereft us. They are produced in us according to cer- 

i68 E S S A Y 11. 

CHAP , x.^ tain laws of nature, by which our condudl will be dire<5led in at- 
taining the one, and avoiding the other : And it is of no moment 
to us, whether they are produced immediately by the operation of 
fome powerful intelligent being upon our minds ; or by the me- 
diation of fome inanimate being which we call matter. 

The evidence of an all-governing mind, fo far from being weak- 
ened, ieems to appear even in a more ftriking light upon his hypo- 
thefis, than upon the common one. The powers which inanimate 
matter is fuppofed to poflefs, have always been the ftrong hold of 
Atheifts, to which they had recourfe in defence of their fyftem. 
This fortrefs of atheifm muft be moft effecStually overturned, if 
there is no fuch thing as matter in the univerfe. In all this the 
Bifhop reafons juftly and acutely. But there is one uncomfort- 
able confequence of his fyftem, which he feems not to have" attended 
to, and from which it will be found difficult, if at all poffible, to 
guard it. 

The confequence, I mean, is this, that, although it leaves us fuffi- 
cient evidence of a fupreme intelligent mind, it feems to take away 
all the evidence we have of other intelligent beings like ourfelves. 
What I call a father, a brother, or a friend, is only a parcel of 
ideas in my own mind ; and being ideas in my mind, they cannot 
pofllbly have that relation to another mind which they have to 
mine, any more than the pain felt by me can be the individual pain 
felt by another. I can find no principle in Berkeley's fyftem, 
which affords me even probable ground to conclude, that there are 
other intelligent beings, like myfelf, in the relations of father, bro- 
ther, friend, or fellow-citizen. I am left alone, as the only crea- 
ture of God in the univerfe, in that forlorn ftate of ego'ifm^ into 
which it is faid fome of the difciples of Des Cartes were brought 
by his philofophy^ 

Of all the opinions that have ever been advanced by Philofo- 
phers, this of Bifhop Berkeley, that there is no material world, 



feems the ftrangeft, and the moft apt to bring philofophy into ri- CHAP. X. 

dicule with plain men who are guided by the dictates of nature 

and common fenfe. And it will not, I apprehend, be improper 

to trace this progeny of the dodlrine of ideas from its origin, and 

to obferve its gradual progrefs, till it acquired fuch flrength, that 

a pious and learned Bifliop had the boldnefs to ulher it into the 

world, as demonftrable from the principles of philofophy univer- 

fally received, and as an admirable expedient for the advancement 

of knowledge, and for the defence of reUgion. 

During the reign of the Peripatetic philofophy, men were little 
difpofed to doubt, and much to dogmatize. The exiftence of the 
objedls of fenfe was held as a firft principle ; and the received doc- 
trine was, that the fenfible fpecies or idea is the very form of the 
external objedl, juft feparated from the matter of it, and fent into 
the mind that perceives it ; fo that we find no appearance of fcep- 
ticifm about the exiftence of matter under that philofophy. 

Des Cartes taught men to doubt even of thofe things that 
had been taken for firft principles. He rejedled the dodtrine of 
fpecies or ideas coming from objedls ; but ftill maintained, that 
what we immediately perceive is not the external objecft, but an 
idea or image of it in our mind. This led fome of his difciples 
into egoifm, and to diftaelieve the exiftence of every creature in 
the univerfe but themfelves and their own ideas. 

But Des Cartes himfelf, either from dread of the cenfure of 
the Church, which he took great care not to provoke, or to ftiun 
the ridicule of the world, which might have crufhed his fyftem at 
once, as it did that of the Egoifts ; or, perhaps, from inward con- 
vidlion, was refolved to fupport the exiftence of matter. To do 
this confiftently with his principles, he found himfelf obliged to 
have recourfe to arguments that are far-fetched, and not very co- 
gent. Sometimes he argues, that our fenfes are given us by God, 
who is no deceiver ; and therefore we ought to believe their tefti- 

Y mony. 

l^o ESSAY II. 

CHAP. X.^ mony. But this argument is weak ; becaufe, according to his prin- 
ciples, our fenfes teftify no more but that we have certain ideas ; 
And if we draw conclufions from this teftimony, which the pre- 
mifes will not fupport, we deceive ourfelves. To give more force 
to this weak argument, he fometimes adds, that we have by na- 
ture a flrong propenfity to believe that there is an external world 
correfponding to our ideas. 

Malebranche thought, that this ftrong propenfity is not a fuf- 
ficient reafon for believing the exiflence of matter ; and that it is 
to be received as an article of faith, not certainly difcoverable by 
reafon. He is aware that faith comes by hearing ; and that it may 
be faid that prophets, apoflles, and miracles, are only ideas in our 
minds. But to this he anfwers, That though thefe things are 
only ideas, yet faith turns them into realities j and this anfwer, he 
hopes, will fatisfy thofe who are not too morofe. 

It may perhaps feem flrange, that Locke, who wrote fb much 
about ideas, fhould not fee thofe confequences which Berkeley 
thought fo obvioufly deducible from that dodlrine. Mr Locke 
furely was not willing that the dodlrine of ideas fhould be thought 
to be loaded with fuch confequences. He acknowledges, that the 
exiflence of a material world is not to be received as a firfl 
principle ; nor is it demonflrable ; but he offers the befl arguments 
for it he can ; and fupplies the weaknefs of his arguments by this 
obfervation, that we have fuch evidence, as is fufficient to diredl us 
in purfuing the good, and avoiding the ill we may receive from 
external things, beyond which we have no concern. 

There is, indeed, a fingle pafTage in Locke's EfTay, which may 
lead one to conjedlure, that he had a glimpfe of that fyftem which 
Berkeley afterwards advanced, but thought proper to fupprefs 
it within his own breafl. The pafTage is in book 4. chap. 10. 
where, having proved the exiflence of an eternal intelligent mind, 
he comes to anfwer thofe who conceive that matter alfo muft be 



eternal ; becaufe we cannot conceive how it could be made out of CHAP. X. 

nothing : And having obferved that the creation of minds requires 

no lefs power than the creation of matter, he adds what follows : 

*' Nay poffibly, if we could emancipate ourfelves from vulgar no- 

" tions, and raife our thoughts, as far as they would reach, to a 

*' clofer contemplation of things, we might be able to aim at fome 

" dim and feeming conception, how matter might at firft be made, 

" and begin to exift by the power of that eternal firft Being ; but 

" to give beginning and being to a fpirit, would be found a more 

" inconceivable efFe(5l of omnipotent power. But this being what 

" would perhaps lead us too far from the notions on which the 

" philofophy now in the world is built, it would not be pardon- 

" able to deviate fo far from them, or to enquire, fo far as gram- 

" mar itfclf would authorife, if the common fettled opinion op- 

" pofes it ; efpecially in this place, where the received dodlrine 

*' ferves well enough to our prefent purpofe." 

It appears from this palTage, 7?;^, That Mr Locke had fome 
fyftem in his mind, perhaps not fully digefted, to which we might 
be led, by raifing our thoughts to a clofer contemplation of things, 
and emancipating them from vulgar notions. Secondly ^ That this 
fyftem would lead fo far from the notions on which the philofophy 
now in the world is built, that he thought proper to keep it within 
his own breaft. Thirdly^ That it might be doubted whether this 
fyftem differed fo far from the common fettled opinion in reality, 
as it feemed to do in words. Fourthly^ By this fyftem, we might 
poffibly be enabled to aim at fome dim and feeming conception 
how matter might at firft be made and begin to exift ; but it would 
give no aid in conceiving how a fpirit might be made. Thefe are 
the charadleriftics of that fyftem which Mr Locke had in his 
mind, and thought it prudent to fupprefs. May they not lead to 
a probable conje<5ture, that it was the fame, or fomething fimilar 
to that of Biftiop Berkeley ? According to Berkeley's fyftem, 
God's creating the material world at fuch a time, means no more 
but that he decreed from that time, to produce ideas in the minds 

Y 2 of 

172 ESSAY II. 

CHAP. X. ^ of finite fpirits, in that order, and according to thofe rules, which 
we call the laws of Nature. This, indeed, removes all difficulty, 
in conceiving how matter was created ; and Berkeley does not 
fail to take notice of the advantage of his fyflem on that account. 
But his fyftem gives no aid in conceiving how a fpirit may be 
made. It appears therefore, that every particular Mr Locke has 
hinted, with regard to that fyftem which he had in his mind, but 
thought it prudent to fupprefs, tallies exa(5lly with the fyftem of 
Berkeley. If we add to this, that Berkeley's fyftem follows 
from Mr Locke's, by very obvious confequence, it feems reafon- 
able to conjecflure, from the paflage now quoted, that he was not 
■unaware of that confequence, but left it to thofe who fhould come 
after him to carry his principles their full length, when they fhould 
by time be better eftablifhed, and able to bear the fliock of their 
oppofition to vulgar notions. Mr Norris, in his Effay towards the 
theory of the ideal or intelligible world, publiflied in 1701, ob- 
ferves, that the material world is not an objedl of fenfe ; becaufe 
fenfation is within us, and has no objedl. Its exiftence, therefore, 
he fays, is a collecflion of reafon, and not a very evident one. 

From this detail we may learn, that the do<5lrine of ideas, as it 
was new modelled by Des Cartes, looked with an unfriendly 
afpe(^ upon the material world ; and although Philofophers were 
very unwilling to gi^'^e up either, they found it a very difficult 
tafk to reconcile them to each other. In this ftate of things 
Berkeley, I think, is reputed the firft who had the daring refo- 
lution to give up the material world altogether, as a facrifice to the 
received philofophy of ideas. 

But we ought not in this hlftorical fltetch to omit an author of 
far inferior name, Arthur Collier, Redor of Langford Magna, 
near Sarum. He publifhed a book in 1713, which he calls Clavis 
TJiiiverfalis ; or, a new Enquiry after Truth ; being a demonftra- 
tion of the non-exiftence or impoffibility of an external world. 
His arguments are the fame in fubftance with Berkeley's j and 



he appears to underftand the whole ftrength of his caufe : Though CHAP. X. 
he is not deficient in metaphyfical acutenefs, his ftile is difagree- 
ablc, being full of conceits, of new coined words, fcholaftic terms, 
and perplexed fentences. He appears to be well acquainted with 
Des Cartes, Malebranche, andNoRRis, as well as with Ari- 
stotle and the fchoolmen : But, what is very ftrange, it does not 
appear that he had ever heard of Locke's EfTay, which had been 
publilhed twenty-four years, or of Berkeley's Principles of 
Knowledge, which had been publilhed three years. 

He fays, he had been ten years firmly convinced of the non- 
exiftence of an external world, before he ventured to publifh his 
book. He is far from thinking as Berkeley does, that the vulgar 
are of his opinion. If his book fhould make any converts to his 
fyftem, (of which he exprefTes little hope, though he has fupported 
it by nine demonftrations,) he takes pains to fhow that his difciples, 
notwithflanding their opinion, may, with the unenlightened, fpeak 
of material things in the common ftile. He himfelf had fcruples 
of confcience about this for fome time ; and if he had not got over 
them, he muft have fhut his lips for ever : But he confidered, that 
God himfelf has ufed this ftile in fpeaking to men in the holy 
fcripture, and has thereby fandtified it to all the faithful ; and that 
to the pure all things are pure. He thinks his opinion may be of 
great ufe, efpecially in religion ; and applies it in particular, to put 
an end to the controverfy about Chrift's prefence in the facrament. 

I have taken the liberty to give this fhort account of Collier's 
book, becaufe I believe it is rare, and little known. I have only 
feen one copy of it, which is in the Univerfity library of Glafgow. 


E S S A Y II. 

C H A P. XI. 

Bijhop Berkeley's Sentiments of the Nature of Ideas. 

I Pass over the fentiments of Biihop Berkeley, with refpe(5l 
to abftract ideas, and with refped: to fpace and time, as things 
which may more properly be confidered in another place. But I 
muft take notice of one part of his fyflem, wherein he feems to 
have deviated from the common opinion about ideas. 

Though he fets out in his principles of knowledge by telling us, 
that it is evident the objedls of human knowledge are ideas, and 
builds his whole fyflem upon this principle ; yet, in the progrefs of 
it, he finds that there are certain obje(5ts of human knowledge that 
are not ideas, but things which have a permanent exiftence. The 
obje(5ts of knowledge, of which we have- no ideas, are our own 
minds, and their various operations, other finite minds, and the 
Supreme Mind. The reafbn why there can be no ideas of fpirits 
and their operations, the author informs us is this. That ideas are 
paffive, inert, unthinking beings ; they cannot therefore be the 
image or likenefs of things that have thought, and will, and adlive 
power ; we have notions of minds, and of their operations, but not 
ideas : We know what we mean by thinking, willing, and percei- 
ving; we can reafon about beings endowed with thofe powers, but 
we have no ideas of them. A fpirit or mind is the only fubftance 
or fupport wherein the unthinking beings or ideas can exifl: ; but 
that this fubftance which fupports or perceives ideas, fliould itfelf 
be an idea, or like an idea, is evidently abfurd. 

He obferves farther, Princip. fed. 142, that " all relations, in- 
*' eluding an adt of the mind, we cannot properly be fald to 
" have an idea, but rather a notion of the relations or habitudes 
'* between things. But if, in the modern way, the word idea is 

" extended 


" extended to fpirits, and relations, and acls, this is, after all, an CHAP. XI. 
" affair of verbal concern ; yet it conduces to clearnefs and proprie- 
" ty, that we diftinguilh things very different by different names." 

This is an important part of Berkeley's fyflem, and deferves 
attention. We are led by it to divide the objefts of human know- 
ledge into two kinds : The firfl is ideas, which v/e have by our five 
fenfes ; they have no exigence when they are not perceived, and 
exift only in the minds of thofe who perceive them. The fecond 
kind of objedls comprehends fpirits, their acts, and the relations 
and habitudes of things. Of thefe we have notions, but no ideas. 
No idea can reprefent them, or have any fimilitude to them : Yet 
we underfland what they mean, and we can fpeak with under- 
ftanding, and reafon about them without ideas. 

This account of ideas is very different from that which Locke 
has given. In his fyftem, we have no knowledge where we have 
no ideas. Every thought mufl have an idea for its immediate ob- 
jedl. In Berkeley's, the mofl: important objedls are known 
without ideas. In Locke's fyflem, there are two fources of our 
ideas, fenfation and refle(5lion. In Berkeley's, fenfation is the 
only fource, becaufe of the objeifls of refledlion there can be no 
ideas. We know them without ideas. Locke divides our ideas 
into thofe of fubftances, modes, and relations. In Berkeley's 
fyftem, there are no ideas of fubftances, or of relations ; but no- 
tions only. And even in the clafs of modes, the operations of 
our own minds are things of which we have diftindl notions j 
but no ideas. 

We ought to do the juftice to Malebranciie to acknowledge, 
that in this point, as well as in many others, his fyftem comes 
nearer to Berkeley's than the latter feems willing to own. That 
author tells us, that there are four different ways in which we 
come to the knowledge of things. To know things by their ideas,. 
is only one of the four. He afHrms, that we have no idea of our 


176' E S S A Y II. 

CHA?. XI. own mind, or any of its modifications : That we know thefe 
things by confcioufnefs, without ideas. Whether thefe two acute 
Philofophers forefaw the confequences that may be drawn from 
the fyftem of ideas, taken in its full extent, and which were af- 
terwards drawn by Mr Hume, I cannot pretend to fay. If they 
did, their regard to religion was too great to permit them to ad- 
mit thofe confequences, or the principles with which they were 
neceffarily conned:ed. 

However this may be, if there be fo many things that may be 
apprehended and known without ideas, this very naturally fug- 
gefts a fcruple with regard to thofe that are left : For it may be 
faid, If we can apprehend and reafon about the world of fpirits, 
without ideas. Is it not poflible that we may apprehend and rea- 
fon about a material world, without ideas ? If confcioufnefs and 
refledlion furnifli us with notions of fpirits, and of their attri- 
butes, without ideas, May not our fenfes furnifti us with notions 
of bodies and their attributes, without ideas ? 

Berkeley forefaw this objedlion to his fyflem, and puts it in 
the mouth of Hylas, in the following words : Dial. 3. Hylas. 
** If you can conceive the mind of God, without having an idea 
** of it, Why may not I be allowed to conceive the exiftence of 
" matter, notvvithftanding that I have no idea of it ?" The an- 
fwer of Philonous is, " You neither perceive matter objedlively, 
" as you do an inacftive being or idea, nor know it, as you do 
" yourfelf, by a reflex adl, neither do you immediatly apprehend 
*' it by fimilitude of the one or the other, nor yet coUedl it by 
" reafoning from that which you know immediately. All which 
" makes the cafe of matter widely different from that of the 
« Deity." 

Though Hylas declares himfelf fatisfied with this anfwer, I 
confefs I am not : Becaufe, if I may trufl the faculties that God 
has given me, I do perceive matter obje<5lively, that is, fomething 



which is extended and folid, which may be meafured and CHAP. XI. 

weighed, is the immediate objedl of my touch and fight. And 

this obje6l I take to be matter, and not an idea. And though I 

have been taught by Philofophers, that what I immediately touch 

is, an idea, and not matter ; yet I have never been able to difcover 

this by the moft accurate attention to my own perceptions. 

It were to be wifhed, that this ingenious author had explained 
what he means by ideas, as diftinguifhed from notions. The 
word notion, being a word in common language, is well under- 
ftood. All men mean by it, the conception, the apprehenfion, 
or thought which we have of any objedt of thought. A notion, 
therefore, is an adl of the mind conceiving or thinking of fome 
obje<Sl. The objetfl of thought maybe either fomething that is 
in the mind, or fomething that is not in the mind. It may be 
fomething that has no exiftence, or fomething that did, or does, 
or fhall exift. But the notion which I have of that objedl, is an 
a6l of my mind which really exifts while I think of the obje<3: ; 
but has no exiftence when I do not think of it. The word idea, 
in. popular language, has precifely the fame meaning as the word 
notion. But Philofophers have another meaning to the word idea; 
and what that meaning is, I think, is very difficult to fay. 

The whole of Bifhop Berkeley's fyftem depends upon the di- 
ftindlion between notions and ideas ; and therefore it is worth 
while to find, if we are able, what thofe things are which he 
calls ideas, as diftinguifhed from notions. 

For this purpofe, we may obferve, that he takes notice of tw© 
.kinds of ideas, the ideas of fenfe, and the ideas of imagination. 
" The ideas imprinted on the fenfes by the Author of Nature, he 
" fays, are called real things ; and thofe excited in the imagina- 
" tion, being lefs regular, vivid and conftant, are more properly 
" termed ideas, or images of things, which they copy and repre- 
" fent. But then our fenfations, be they nev^r fo vivid and di- 

Z , " ftinft 

178 ESSAY IT. 

CHAP. XI. « ftin(^, are neverthelefs ideas ; that is, they exift in the mind, or 
" are perceived by it as truly as the ideas of its own framing. The 
" ideas of fenfe are allowed to have more reality in them ; that is, 
" to be more flrong, orderly, and coherent, than the creatures of 
*' the mind. They are alfo lefs dependent on the fpirit, or think- 
** ing fubftance which perceives them, in that they are excited by 
" the will of another and more powerful fpirit j yet ftill they are 
" ideas ; and certainly no idea, whether faint or flrong, can exifl, 
" otherwife than in a mind perceiving it." Princip. fed. 33. 

From this paffage we fee, that, by the ideas of fenfe, the au- 
thor means fenfations : And this indeed is evident from many other 
pafTages, of which I flaall mention a few, Princip. fedl 5. " Light and 
" colours, heat and cold, extenfion and figure, in a word, the 
" things we fee and feel, what are they but fo many fenfations, 
" notions, ideas, or impreflions on the fenfe ; and is it poffible to 
" feparate, even in thought, any of thefe from perception ? For 
" my part, I might as eafily divide a thing frpm itfelf." Sedl. 18. 
" As for our fenfes, by them we have the knowledge only of our 
" fenfations, ideas, or thofe things that are immediately perceived 
" by fenfe ; call them what you will : But they do not inform us 
" that things exift without the mind, or unperceived, like to thofe 
" which are perceived." Secfl. 25. " All our ideas, fenfations, or the 
" things which we perceive, by whatever names they may be di- 
" ftinguiihed, are vifibly ina€live ; there is nothing of power or 
*' agency included in them." 

This therefore appears certain, that, by the ideas of fenfe, the 
author meant the fenfations we have by means of our fenfes. 
I have endeavoured to explain the meaning of the word fenfat'ion^ 
Eflay I. chap. i. and refer to the explication there given of it, 
which appears to me to be perfe(5lly agreeable to the fenfe in which 
Bilhop Berkeley ufes it. 

As there can be no notion or thought but in a thinking being ; 



fo there can be no fenfation but in a fentient being. It is the adV, CHAP, xi, 
or feeling of a fentient being ; its very efTence confifls in its being 
felt. Nothing can refemble a fenfation, but a fimilar fenfation in 
the fame, or in fome other mind. To think that any quality in 
a thing that is inanimate can refemble a fenfation, is a great 
abfurdity. In all this, I cannot but agree perfedlly with Bifhop 
Berkeley ; and I think his notions of fenfation much more di- 
ftincl and accurate than Locke's, who thought that the primary 
qualities of body are refemblances of our fenfations, but that the 
fecondary are not. 

That we have many fenfations by means of our external fenfes,. 
there can be no doubt ; and if he is pleafed to call thofe, ideas, 
there ought to be no difpute about the meaning of a word. But, 
fays Bilhop Berkeley, by our fenfes, we have the knowledge only 
of our fenfations or ideas, call them which you will. I allow him 
to call them which he will ; but I would have the word oiily in this 
fentence to be well weighed, becaufe a great deal depends upon it. 

For if it be true, that, by our fenfes, we have the knowledge of 
our fenfations only, then his fyftem muft be admitted, and the 
exiftence of a material world muft be given up as a dream. No 
demonftration can be more invincible than this. If we have any 
knowledge of a material world, it muft be by the fenfes : But, by 
the fenfes, we have no knowledge but of our fenfations only ; and 
our fenfations have no refemblance of any thing that can be in a 
material world. The only propofition in this demonftration which 
admits of doubt is, that, by our fenfes, we have the knowledge 
of our fenfations only, and of nothing elfe. If there are objeds 
of the fenfes which are not fenfations, his arguments do not touch 
them ; they may be things which do not exift in the mind, as all 
fenfations do ; they may be things, of which, by our fenfes, we 
have notions, though no ideas ; juft as, by confcioufnefs and re- 
fledlion, we have notions of fpirits, and of their operations, with- 
out ideas or fenfations. 

Z 2 Shall 

i8o E S S A Y II. 

CHAP. XI . Shall we fay then, that, by our fenfes, we have the knowledge 
of our fenfations only ; and that they give us no notion of any 
thing but of our fenfations ? Perhaps this has been the doctrine of 
Philofophers, and not of Bilhop Berkeley alone, otherwife he 
would have fupported it by arguments. Mr Locke calls all the 
notions we have by our fenfes ideas of fenfation ; and in this has 
been very generally followed. Hence it feems a very natural in- 
ference, that ideas of fenfation are fenfations. But Philofophers 
may err : Let us hear the di(^ates of common fenfe upon this 

Suppofe I am pricked with a pin, I a£k. Is the pain I feel, a fen- 
fation ? undoubtedly it is. There can be nothing that refembles 
pain in any inanimate being. But I afk again, Is the pin a fenfa- 
tion ? To this queflion I find myfelf under a neceihty of anfwer- 
ing. That the pin is not a fenfation, nor can have the lead refem- 
blance to any fenfation. The pin has length and thicknefs, and fi- 
gure and weight. A fenfation can have none of thofe qualities. I 
am not more certain that the pain I feel is a fenfation, than that 
the pin is not a fenfation ; yet the pin is an objedl of fenfe ; and I 
am as certain that I perceive its figure and loardneli by ray fenfes, 
as that I feel pain when pricked by it. 

Having faid fo much of the ideas of fenfe in Berkele y's fyllem,. 
we are next to confider the account he gives of the ideas of ima- 
gination. Of thefe he fays, Princip. fed. 28. " I find I can ex- 
" cite ideas in my mind at pleafure, and vary and ihift the fcene as 
" oft as I think fit. It is no more than willing ; and ftraightway 
" this or that idea arlfes in my fancy ; and by the fame power it 
*' is obliterated, and makes way for another. This making and 

unmaking of ideas, doth very properly denominate the mind 
" a(flive. This much is certain, and grounded on experience. 
" Our fenfations, he fays, are called real things ; the ideas of ima- 
" gination are more properly termed ideas, or images of things ;" 
that is, as I apprehend, they are the images of our fenfations. It 



might furely be expeded, that we fliould be well acquainted with CHA P. XI . 
the ideas of imagination, as they are of our making ; yet, after 
all the Bifhop has faid about them, I am at a lofs to know what 
they are. 

I would obferve, in x\\tjirft place, with regard to thefe ideas of 
imagination, that they are not fenfations ; for furely fenfation is 
the work of the fenfes, and not of imagination ; and though pain 
be a fenfation, the thought of pain, when I am not pained,, is no 

I obferve, in x\\tfecond place, that I can find no diftindlion be- 
tween ideas of imagination and notions, which the author fays 
are not ideas. I can eafily diftinguifli between a notion and a fen- 
fation. It is one thing to fay I have the fenfation of pain. It is 
another thing to fay I have a notion of pain. The laft expreflion 
fignifies no more than that I underftand what is meant by the 
word pain. The firft fignifies that I really feel pain. But I can 
find no diftindlion between the notion of pain, and the imagina- 
tion of it, or indeed between the notion of any thing elfe, and the 
imagination of it. I can therefore give no account of the diftinc- 
tion which Berkeley makes between ideas of imagination and 
notions, which he fays are not ideas. They feem to me perfedlly 
to coincide. 

He feems indeed to fay, that the ideas of imagination differ not 
in kind from thofe of the fenfes, but only in the degree of their 
regularity, vivacity, and conftancy. " They are, fays he, lefs re- 
" gular, vivid, and conflant." This do(5lrine was afterwards 
greedily embraced by Mr Hume, and makes a main pillar of his 
fyflem ; but it cannot be reconciled to common fenfe, to which 
Bifliop Berkeley profefles a great regard. For, according to this 
do(5lrine, if we compare the ftate of a man racked with the gout, 
with his ftate, when being at perfedl eafe, he relates what he has 
fiifFered ; the difference of thefe two Itates is only this, that, in 


i82 E S S A Y II. 

CHA P. XI . tiie laft^ the pain is lefs regular, vivid, and conftant, than in the 
firft. We cannot pofllbly affent to this. Every man knov^s that 
he can relate the pain he fuffered, not only without pain, but with 
pleafure ; and that to luffer pain, and to think of it, are things 
which totally differ in kind, and not in degree only. 

We fee, therefore, vipon the whole, that according to this fyftem, 
of the moft important obje(Sls of knowledge, that is, of fpirits, of 
their operations, and of the relations of things, we have no ideas 
at all ; we have notions of them, but not ideas : The ideas we have 
are thofe of fenfe, and thofe of imagination. The firft are the fen- 
fations we have by means of our fenfes, whofe exiftence no man 
can deny, becaufe he is confcious of them ; and whofe nature hath 
been explained by this author with great accuracy. As to the 
ideas of imagination, he hath left us much in the dark : He makes 
them images of our fenfations, though, according to his own doc- 
trine, nothing can refemble a fenfation but a fenfation. He feems 
to think, that they differ from fenfations only in the degree of 
their regularity, vivacity, and conftancy ; But this cannot be re- 
conciled to the experience of mankind ; and befides this mark, 
which cannot be admitted, he hath given us no other mark by 
which they may be diftinguiflied from notions : Nay, it may be 
obferved, that the very reafon he gives why we can have no ideas 
of the a(5ts of the mind about its ideas, nor of the relations of things, 
is applicable to what he calls ideas of imagination. Princip. fe<S. 
142. " We may not, I think, ftridlly be faid to have an idea of an 
" aclive being, or of an adion, although we may be faid to have 
*' a notion of them. I have fome knowledge or notion of my 
" mind, and its ads about ideas, in as much as I know or under- 
" ftand what is meant by thefe words. It is alfo to be remarked, 
" that all relations including an adl of the mind, we cannot fo 
" properly be faid to have an idea, but rather a notion of the rela- 
" tions and habitudes between things." From this it follows, 
that our imaginations are not properly ideas but notions, becaufe 
they inclu<i? an adl of the mind. For he tells us, in a paffage al- 
^ ready 


ready quoted, that they are creatures of the mind, of its own CHAP, xr. 
framing, and that it makes and unmakes them as it thinks fit, and 
from this is properly denominated a(5live. If it be a good reafon 
why we have not ideas, but notions only of relations, becaufe 
they include an a<5l of the mind ; the fame reafon mufl lead us to. 
conclude, that our imaginations are notions and not ideas, fince 
they are made and unmade by the mind as it thinks fit, and from 
this it is properly denominated adlive. 

When fo much has been written, and fo many difputes raifed, 
about ideas, it were defirable that we knew what they are, and to 
what category or clafs of beings they belong. In this we might 
expedl fatisfadlion in the writings of Billiop Berkeley, if any 
where, confidering his known accuracy and precifion in the ufe of 
words ; and it is for this reafon that I have taken fo much pains 
to find out what he took them to be. 

After all, if I underftand what he calls the ideas of fenfe, they 
are the fenfations which we have by means of our five ferifes ; 
but they are, he fays, lefs properly termed ideas. 

I underftand likewife what he calls notions, but they, lays he, 
are very different from ideas, though, in the modern way, often 
called by that name. 

The ideas of imagination remain, which are moft properly term- 
ed ideas, as he fays ; and, with regard to thefe, I am ftill very 
much in the dark. When I imagine a lion or an elephant, the 
lion or elephant is the objetfl imagined. The acfV of the mind, in 
conceiving that objecfl, is the notion, the conception, or imagina- 
tion of the objedl. If befides the obje6l, and the a(5l of the mind 
about it, there be fomething called the idea of the obje(5l, I know 
not wliat it is. 

If we confult other authors who have treated of ideas, we fhall 


i84 E S S A Y II. 

CHAP. XI. £n(j as little fatlsfadllon with regard to the meaning of this philo- 
fophical term. The vulgar have adopted it ; but they only mean 
by it the notion or conception we have of any objed, efpecially 
our more abflradl or general notions. When it is thus put to fig- 
nify the operation of the mind about objedls, whether in con- 
ceiving, remembering, or perceiving, it is well underftood. But 
Philofophers will have ideas to be the objedls of the mind's opera- 
tions, and not the operations themfelves. There is, indeed, great 
variety of objeds of thought. We can think of minds, and of 
their operations, of bodies, and of their qualities and relations. If 
ideas are not comprehended under any of thefe clafles, I am at a 
lofs to comprehend what they are. 

In ancient philofophy, ideas were faid to be immaterial forms, 
which, according to one fyftem, exifted from all eternity, and, ac- 
cording to another, are fent forth from the objeds, whofe form 
they are. In modern philofophy, they are things in the mind, 
which are the immediate objeds of all our thoughts, and which 
have no exiflence when we do not think of them. They are called 
the images, the refemblances, the reprefentatives of external ob- 
jeds of fenfe ; yet they have neither colour, nor fmell, nor figure, 
nor motion, nor any fenfible quality. I revere the authority of 
Philofophers, efpecially where they are fo unanimous ; but until I 
can comprehend what they mean by ideas, I muft think and fpeak 
with the vulgar. 

In fenfation, properly fb called, I can diftinguifh two things, 
the mind or fentient being, and the fenfation. Whether the lafl is 
to be called a feeling or an operation, I difpute not ; but it has no 
objed diftind from the fenfation itfelf. If in fenfation there be a 
third thing, called an idea, I know not what it is. 

In perception, in remembrance, and in conception, or imagina- 
tion, I diftinguilh three things, the mind that operates, the ope- 
ration of the mind, and the objed of that operation. That the 



objedl perceived is one thing, and the perception of that objedl an- CHA P. XL 
other, I am as certain as I can be of any thing. The fame may- 
be faid of conception, of remembrance, of love and hatred, of 
defire and averiion. In all thefe, the adl of the mind about its ob- 
jedl is one thing, the objedl is another thing. There muft be an 
objedt, real or imaginary, diftindl from the operation of the mind 
about it. Now, if in thefe operations the idea be a fourth thing 
different from the three I have mentioned, I know not what it is, 
nor have been able to learn from all that has been written about 
ideas. And if the dodtrine of Philofophers about ideas confounds 
any two of thefe things which I have mentioned as diftindl ; if, 
for example, it confounds the objedl perceived with the perception 
of that obje6l, and reprefents them as one and the fame thing, 
fuch dodlrine is altogether repugnant to all that I am able to difco- 
ver of the operations of my own mind ; and it is repugnant to 
the common fenfe of mankind, exprcfled in the ftru<Sure of all 

Of the Sentiments of Mr Hume. 

TWO volumes of the Treatife of human nature were publifhed 
in 1739, and the third in 1740. The dodtrine contained in 
this Treatife was publifhed anew in a more popular form in Mr 
Hume's philofophical EfTays, of which there have been various 
Editions. What other authors, from the time of Des Cartes, 
had called ideas^ this author diflinguiflies into two kinds, to wit, 
imprejjions and ideas; comprehending under the firft, all our fen- 
fations, paffions, and emotions ; and under the laft, the faint 
images of thefe, when we remember or imagine them. 

He fets out with this, as a principle that needed no proof, and 

A a of 

i86 ESSAY II. 

CHAP. XII. of which therefore he offers none. That all the perceptions of the 
'^ human mind refolve themfclves into thefe two kinds, imprejfwm 

and tdeas. 

As this propofition is the foundation upon which the whole of 
Mr Hume's fyftem refts, and from which it is raifed with great 
acutenefs indeed, and ingenuity, it were to be wifhed that he had 
told us upon what authority this fundamental propofition refls. 
But we are left to guefs, whether it is held forth as a firft principle, 
which has its evidence in itfelf ; or whether it is to be received 
upon the authority of Philofophers. 

Mr Locke had taught us, that all the immediate objcds of hu- 
man knowledge are ideas in the mind. Bifliop Berkeley, pro- 
ceeding upon this foundation, demonflrated very eafily, that there 
is no material world. And he thought, that, for the purpofes both 
of philofophy and religion, we fliould find no lofs, but great be- 
nefit, in the want of it. But the Bifhop, as became his order, 
was unwilling to give up the world of fpirits. He faw very well, 
that ideas are as unfit to reprefent fpirits as they are to reprefent 
bodies. Perhaps he faw, that if we perceive only the ideas of fpi- 
rits, we fhall find the fame difficulty in inferring their real exift- 
ence from the exiftence of their ideas, as we find in inferring the 
exiftence of matter from the idea of it ; and therefore, while he 
gives up the material world in favour of the fyftem of ideas, he 
gives up one half of that fyftem in favour of the world of fpirits ; 
and maintains, that we can, without ideas, think, and fpeak, and 
reafon, intelligibly about fpirits, and what belongs to them. 

Mr Home fliows no fuch partiality in favour of the world of 
fpirits. He adopts the theory of ideas in its full extent ; and, in 
confequence, fliews that there is neither matter nor mind in the 
unlverfe ; nothing but impreffions and ideas. What we call a bo- 
dy^ is only a bundle of fenfations j and what we call the w/W, is 
: • only 


only a bundle of thoughts, paflions, and emotions, without any CHap.xii . 

Some ages hence, it will perhaps be looked upon as a curious 
anecdote, that two Philofophers of the 18 th century, of very di- 
ftinguifhed rank, were led by a philofophical hypothefis ; one, to 
difbelieve the exiftence of matter ; and the other, to difbelieve the 
exiftence both of matter and of mind. Such an anecdote may 
not be uninflrudlive, if it prove a warning to Philofophers to be- 
ware of hypotheles, efpecially when they lead to conclufions which 
contradidl the principles, upon which all men of common fenfc 
muft adl in common life. 

The Egoifts, whom we mentioned before, were left far behind 
by Mr Hume ; for they believed their own exiftence, and perhaps 
alfo the exiftence of a Deity. But Mr Hume's fyftem does not 
even leave him ^felf to claim the property pf his impref&ons and 

A fyftem of confequences, however abfurd, acutely and juftly 
drawn from a few principles, in very abftracft matters, is of real 
utility in fcience, and may be made fubfervient to real knowledge. 
This merit Mr Hume's metaphyfical writings have in a great de- 

We had occafion before to obferve, that, fince the time of Des 
Cartes, Philofophers, in treating of the powers of the mind, have 
in many inftances confounded things, which the common fenfe of 
mankind has always led them to diftinguilh, and which have dif- 
ferent names in all languages. Thus, in the perception of an ex- 
ternal object, all languages diftinguifli three things, the mind that 
perceives, the operation of that mind, which is called perception^ 
and the objeB perceived. Nothing appears more evident to a mind 
untutored by philofophy, than that thefe three are diftind: things, 
which, though related, ought never to be confounded. The ftruc- 

A a 2 turc 

i88 ESSAY II. 

CHAP. XI I. ture of all languages fuppofes this diflincftxon, and is built upon it. 
Philofophers have introduced a fourth thing in this procefs, which 
they call the idea of the objecft, which is fuppofed to be an image, 
or reprefentative of the objedl, and is faid to be the immediate 
obje6l. The vulgar know nothing about this idea ; it is a creature 
of philofophy, introduced to account for, and explain the manner 
of our perceiving external objects. 

It is pleafant to obferve, that while Philofophers, for more than 
a century, have been labouring, by means of ideas, to explain 
perception, and the other operations of the mind, thofe ideas have 
by degrees ufurped the place of perception, objedt, and even of 
the mind itfelf, and have fupplanted thofe very things they were 
brought to explain. Des Cartes reduced all the operations of 
the underftanding to perception ; and what can be more natural 
to thofe who believe that they are only different modes of per- 
ceiving ideas in our own minds. Locke confounds ideas fome- 
times with the perception of an external obje<fl, fometimes with 
the external object itfelf. In Berkeley's fyftem the idea is the 
only object, and yet is often confounded with the perception of 
it. But in Hume's, the idea or the impreflion, which is only a 
more lively idea, is mind, perception, and objedl, all in one : So 
that, by the term perception in Mr Hume's fyftem, we muft un- 
derftand the mind itfelf, all its operations, both of underftanding 
and will, and all the objedls of thefe operations. Perception ta- 
ken in this fenfe he divides into our more lively perceptions, which 
he calls imprejftons^ and the lefs lively, which he calls ideas. To 
prevent repetition, I muft here refer the reader to fome remarks 
made upon this divifion, EfTay i. chap. i. in the explication there 
given of the words perceive, objeSl, imprejfton. 

Philofophers have differed very much with regard to the origin 
of our ideas, or the fources whence they are derived. The Peri- 
patetics held, that all knowledge is derived originally from the 
fenfes ; and this ancient do(51rine feems to be revived by fome late 



French Philofophers, and by Dr Hartley and Dr Priestly CHA P, xil . 
among the Britifh. Des Cartes maintained, that many of our 
ideas are innate. Locke oppofed the dodrine of innate ideas 
with much zeal, and employs the whole firfl book of his Eflay 
againft it. But he admits two different fources of ideas ; the ope- 
rations of our external fenfes, which he calls y^«/2?/iow, by which 
we get all our ideas of body, and its attributes ; and reJle£tion 
upon the operations of our minds, by which we get the ideas of 
every thing belonging to the mind. The main deiign of the fe- 
cond book of Locke's Eflay, is to fhow, that all our fimple ideas, 
without exception, are derived from the one or the other, or both 
of thefe fources. In doing this, the author is led into fome para- 
doxes, although, in general, he is not fond of paradoxes : And 
had he forefeen all the confequences that may be drawn from his 
account of the origin of our ideas, he would probably have exa- 
mined it more carefully. 


Mr Hume adopts Locke's account of the origin of our ideas, 
and from that principle infers, that we have no idea of fubftance 
corporeal or fpiritual, no idea of power, no other idea of a caufe, 
but that it is fomething antecedent, and conftantly conjoined to 
that which we call its efFedl ; and, in a word, that we can have no 
idea of any thing but our fenfations, and the operations of mind 
we are confcious of. 

This author leaves no power to the mind in framing its ideas 
and imprefllons ; and no wonder, fince he holds that we have no 
idea of power ; and the mind is nothing but that fuccelllon of im- 
preflions and ideas of which we are intimately confcious. 

He thinks, therefore, that our impreflions arife from unknown 
caufes, and that the impreflions are the caufes of their correfpond- 
ing ideas. By this he means no more but that they always go be- 
fore the ideas ; for this is all that is neceflary to conftitute the re- 
lation of caufe and effedl. 


I go 

ESSAY 11. 


CHAP. xiT. As to the order and fucceffion of our ideas, he holds it to be 
determined by three laws of attradion or afTociation, which he 
takes to be original properties of the ideas, by which they attradl, 
as it were, or aflbciate themfelves with other ideas which either 
referable them, or which have been contiguous to them in time 
and place, or to which they have the relations of caufe and efFed. 

We may here obferve by the way, that the laft of thefe three 
laws feems to be included in the fecond, fince caufation, according 
to him, implies no more than contiguity in time and place. 

It is not my defign at prefent to fhow how Mr Hume, upon the 
principles he has borrowed from Locke and Berkeley, has with 
great acutenefs, reared a fyftem of abfolute fcepticifm, which leaves 
no rational ground to believe any one propofition, rather than its 
contrary : My intention in this place being only to give a detail 
of the fentiments of Philofophers concerning ideas fince they be- 
came an objedl of fpeculation, and concerning the manner of our 
perceiving external objedts by their means. 

Of the Sentiments of Antony Arnauld. 

IN this fketch of the opinions of Philofophers concerning ideas, 
we muft not omit Antony Arnauld, dodtor of the Sorbonne, 
who, in the year 1683, publifhed his book of True and Falfe Ideas, 
in oppofition to the fyftem of Malebranche before mentioned. 
It is only about ten years fince I could find this book, and I believe 
it is rare. 

Though ARNAtTLD wrotc before Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, 
I have referved to the lad place fome account of his fentiments, 



becaufe it feems difficult to determine whether he adopted the CHAP. Xiii. 
common theory of ideas, or whether he is lingular in rejeding it 
altogether as a fidlion of Philofophers. 

The controverfy between Malebranche and Arnauld necef- 
farily led them to confider what kind of things ideas are, a point 
upon which other Philofophers had very generally been filent. 
Both of them profefTed the dodlrine univerfally received, that we 
perceive not material things immediately, that it is their ideas that 
are the immediate obje<fls of our thought, and that it is in the idea 
of every thing that we perceive its properties. 

It is neceflary to premife, that both thefe authors ufe the word 
perception^ as Des Cartes had done before them, to fignify every 
operation of the underftanding. " To think, to know, to per- 
" ceive, are the fame thing," fays Mr Arnauld, chap. 5. def. 2. 
It is likewife to be obferved, that the various operations of the 
^nd arc by both called modifications of the mind. Perhaps 
they were led into this phrafe by the Cartefian dodtrine, that the 
elTence of the mind confifls in thinking, as that of body confifts 
in extenfion. I apprehend, therefore, that when they make fenfa- 
tion, perception, memory, and imagination, to be various modi- 
fications of the mind, they mean no more, but that thefe are 
things which can only exift in the mind as their fubje(5l. We ex- 
prefs the fame thing, by calling them various modes of thinking, 
or various operations of the mind. 

The things which the mind perceives, fays Malebranche, 
are of two kinds. They are either in the mind itfelf, or they are 
external to it. The things in the mind, are all its different mo- 
difications, its fenfations, its imaginations, its pure intelledlions, 
its pafTions and afFe<5lions. Thefe are immediately perceived ; we 
are confcions of them, and have no need of ideas to reprefent 
them to us. 



ESSAY 11. 

CHA P.XII I- Things external to the mind, are either corporeal or fpiritual. 
With regard to the laft, he thinks it poflible, that, in another ftate, 
fpirits may be an immediate obje<5l of our underftandings, and fo 
be perceived without ideas ; that there may be fuch an union of 
fpirits as that they may immediately perceive each other, and 
communicate their thoughts mutually, without figns, and with- 
out ideas. 

But leaving this as a problematical point, he holds it to be un- 
deniable, that material things cannot be perceived immediately, 
but only by the mediation of ideas. He thought it likewife un- 
deniable, that the idea muft be immediately prefent to the mind, 
that it muft touch the foul as it were, and modify its perception 
of the objedl. 

From thefe principles we muft neceflarily conclude, either that 
the idea is fome modification of the human mind, or that it 
muft be an idea in the Divine Mind, which is always inti- 
mately prefent with our minds. The matter being brought to 
this alternative, Malebranche confiders firft all the pofTible 
ways fuch a modification may be produced in our mind as 
that we call an idea of a material objedl, taking it for granted 
always, that it muft be an objedt perceived, and fomething 
different from the acft of the mind in perceiving it. He fiinds 
infuperable objedtions againft every hypothefis of fuch ideas be- 
ing produced in our minds, and therefore concludes, that 
the immediate objeds of perception are the ideas of the Divine 

Againft this fyftcm Arnauld wrote his book of True and Falfe 
Ideas. He does not objedl to the alternative mentioned by Male- 
branche ; but he maintains, that ideas are modifications of our 
minds. And finding no other modification of the human mind 
which can be called the idea of an external objedl, he fays it is 
only another word for perception. Chap. 5. def. 3. " I take the 

" idea 


" idea of an objedt, and the perception of an objed, to be the C HAP^Xlll 

** fame thing. I do not fay whether there may be other things 

" to which the name of idea may be given. But it is certain 

** that there are ideas taken in this fenfe, and that thefe ideas 

*' are either attributes or modifications of our minds." 

This, I think indeed, was to attack the fyftem of Malebranche 
upon its weak fide, and where, at the fame time, an attack was 
leafl expelled. Philofophers had been fo unanimous in maintain- 
ing that we do not perceive external objeds immediately, but by 
certain reprefentative images of them called ideas, that Male- 
branche might well think his fyftem fecure upon that quarter, 
and that the only queftion to be determined was. In what fubjedl 
thofe ideas are placed, whether in the human or in the divine 
mind ? 

But, fays Mr Arnauld, thofe ideas are mere chimeras, fi6lions 
of Philofophers ; there are no fuch beings in nature ; and there- 
fore it is to no purpofe to enquire whether they are in the divine 
or in the human mind. The only true and real id^as are our per- 
ceptions, which are acknowledged by all Philofophers, and by 
Malebranche himfelf, to be adts or modifications of our own 
miinds. He does not fay that the fi(5litious ideas were a fidlion of 
Malebranche. He acknowledges that they had been very ge- 
nerally maintauied by the fcholaftic Philofophers, and points out, 
very judicioufly, the prejudices that had led them into the belief 
of fuch ideas. 

Of all the powers of our mind, the external fenfes are thought 
to be the beft underftood, and their obje<51s are the moft familiar. 
Hence we meafure other powers by them, and transfer to other 
powers the language which properly belongs to them. The ob- 
jedls of fenfe muft be prelent to the fenfe, or within its fphere, 
in order to their being perceived. Hence, by analogy, we are 
led to fay of every thing when we think of it, that it is prefent 

Bb to 

194 ESSAY II. 

CHAPXIII. to the mind, or in the mind. But this prefence is metaphorical, 
or analogical only ; and Arnauld calls it ohjedlive prefence, to 
diftinguifh it from that local prefence which is required in ob- 
jexfts that are perceived by fenfe. But both being called by the 
fame name, they are confounded together, and thofe things that 
belong only to real or local prefence, are attributed to the meta- 

We are likewife accuftomed to fee objedls by their images in a 
mirror, or in water ; and hence are led, by analogy, to think that 
obje<5ls may be prefented to the memory or imagination, in fome 
fimilar manner, by images, which Philofophers have called ideas. 

By fuch prejudices and analogies, Arnauld conceives, men 
have been led to believe, that the objedls of memory and imagi- 
nation muft be prefented to the mind by images or ideas i and the 
Philofophers have been more carried awaybythefe prejudices than 
even the vulgar, becaufe the ufe made of this theory was to ex- 
plain and account for the various operations of the mind, a mat- 
ter in which th^ vulgar take no concern. 

He thinks, however, that Des Cartes had got the better of 
thefe prejudices, and that he ufes the word idea as fignifying the 
fame thing with perception, and is therefore furprifed that a dif- 
ciple of Des Cartes, and one who was fo great an admirer of 
him as Malebranche was, fhould be carried away by them. 
It is ftrange, indeed, that the two moft eminent difciples of Des' 
Cartes, and his cotemporaries, Ihould dif&r fo eflentially with 
regard to his dodlrine concerning ideas. 

I fliall not attempt to give the reader an account of the conti- 
nuation of this controverfy between thofe two acute Philofophers, 
in the fubfequent defences and replies ; becaufe I have not accefs 
to fee them. After much reafoning, and fome animofity, each 
continued in his own opinion, and left his antagonift where he 



found him. Malebranche's opinion of our feeing all things CU^.XUI . 
in God, foon died away of itfelf ; and Arnauld's notion of ideas 
feems to have been lefs regarded than it deferved, by the Philofo- 
phers that came after him ; perhaps for this reafon, among others, 
that it feemed to be in fome fort given up by himfelf, in his at- 
tempting to reconcile it to the common dodlrine concerning ideas. 

From the account I have given, one would be apt to conclude 
that Arnauld totally denied the exiflence of ideas, in the philo- 
fophical fenfe of that word, and that he adopted the notion of the 
vulgar, who acknowledge no objedl of perception but the external 
objedl. But he feems very unwilling to deviate fo far from the 
common track, and what he had given up with one hand he takes 
back with the othen 

For, Jir/fi Having defined ideas to be the fame thing with per- 
ceptions, he adds this qualification to his definition : " I do not 
" here confider whether there are other things that may be called 
** ideas ; but it is certain there are ideas taken in this fenfe." I 
believe, indeed, there is no Philofopher who does not, on fome 
occafions, life the word idea in this popular fenfe. 

Secondly, He fupports this popular fenfe of the word by tlie au- 
thority of Des Cartes, who, in his demonftration of the exift- 
ence of God from the idea of him in our minds, defines an idea 
thus : " By the word idea, I underftand that form of any thought, 
" by the immediate perception of which I am confcious of that 
" thought ; fo that I can exprefs nothing by words, with under- 
" (landing, without being certain that there is in my mind the 
" idea of that which is exprefTed by the words." This definition 
feems indeed to be of the fame import with that which is given 
by Arnauld. But Des Cartes adds a qualification to it, which 
Arnauld, in quoting it, omits ; and which fliews, that Des 
Cartes meant to limit his definition to the idea then treated of, 
that is, to the idea of the Deity ; and that there are other ideas 

B b 2 to 

196 E S S A Y II. 

CHAP. XIII. to which this definition does not apply. For he adds : " And thu» 
" I give the name of idea, not folely to the images painted in the 
" phantafy. Nay, in this place, I do not at all give the name of 
" ideas to thofe images, in fo far as they are painted in the corpo- 
" real phantafy that is in fome part of the brain, but only in fo 
' " far as they inform the mind,, turning its attention to that part 
" of the brain." 

Thirdly^ Arnauld has employed the whole of his fixth chapter, 
to Ihew that thefe ways of fpeaking, common among Philofophers, 
to wit, that we perceive not things immediately ; that it is their ideas that 
are the immediate objeSls of our thoughts ; that it is in the idea of every 
thing that tve perceive its properties^ are not to be reje(5led, but are 
true when rightly underftood. He labours to reconcile thefe ex- 
preffions to his own definition of ideas, by obfefving, that every 
perception and every thought is neceflarily confctous of itfelf, and 
refledls upon itfelf; and that, by this confcioufnefs and refle<5lion,^ 
it is its own immediate objedl. Whence he infers, that the idea, 
that is, the perception, is the immediate objedt of perception.. 

Tliis looks like a weak attempt to reconcile two inconfifteuc 
do6lrines by one who wiflaes to hold both. It is true, that confci- 
oufnefs always goes along with perception j but they are different 
operations of the mind, and they have their different objecls. 
Confcioufnefs is not perception, nor is the objedl of confcioufnefs 
the obje(5l of perception. The fame may be faid of every opera- 
tion of mind that has an objedt. Thus, injury is the objedt of 
refentment. When I refent an injury, I am confcious of my re- 
fentment ; that is, my refentment is the immediate and the only 
objedl of my confcioufnefs ; but it would be abfurd to infer from 
this, that my refentment is the immediate objedl of my refent- 
ment. ^ 

Upon the whole, if Arnauli>, in eonfequence of his dotflrine, 
that ideas, taken for reprefentative images of external objec^ls, are 



a mere fidion of the Philofophers, had rejeded boldly the doc- C HAP. XIV . 
trine of Des Cartes, as well as of tke other Philofophers, con- 
cerning thofe fiditious beings, and all the ways of fpeaking that 
imply their exiftence, I {hould have thought him more confiflenc 
with himfelf, and his dodrine concerning ideas more rational and 
more intelligible than that of any other author of my acquaint- 
ance who has treated of the fubje<Sl. 

C H'^AL't.^ XIV. 

ReJleBions on the common Theory of Ideas. 

AFTER fo long a detail of the fentiments of Philofophers, an- 
cient and modern, concerning ideas, it may feem prefump- 
tuous to call in queftion their exiftence. But no philofophical opi- 
nion, however ancient, however generally received, ought to reft 
upon authority. There is no prefumption in requiring evidence 
for it^ or in regulating our belief by thje evidence we can find. 

To prevent miftakes, the reader muft again be reminded, that if 
by ideas are meant only the a<5ts or operations of our minds in per- 
ceiving, remembering, or imagining objecls, I am far from calling 
in queftion the exiftence of thofe ads ; we are confcious of them 
every day, and every hour of life ; and I believe no man of a 
found mind ever doubted of the real exiftence of the operations of 
mind, of which he is confcious. Nor is it to be doubted, that, 
by the faculties which God has given us, we can conceive thing* 
that are abfent, as well as perceive thofe that are within the reach 
of our fenfes ; and that fuch conceptions may be more or lefs di- 
ftind, and more or lefs lively and ftrong. We have reafon to 
afcribe to the all-knowing and all-perfed Being diftindl conceptions 
of all things exiftent and poflible, and of all their relations ; 
and if thefe conceptions are called his eternal ideas, there ought 


198 E S S A Y II. 

CHAP.XIV. fQ be no difpute among Philofophers about a word. The ideas, of 
whofe exiflence I require the proof, are not the operations of any 
mind, but fuppofed objects of thofe operations. They are not per- 
ception, remembrance, or conception, but things that are faid to 
be perceived, or remembered, or imagined. 

Nor do I difpute the exiftence of what the vulgar call the objeds 
of perception. Thefe, by all who acknowledge their exiflence, are 
called real things, not ideas. But Philofophers maintain, that, be- 
fides thefe, there are immediate objedls of perception in the mind 
itfelf : That, for inftance, we do not fee the fun immediately, but 
an idea ; or, as Mr Hume calls it, an impreffion, in our own 
minds. This idea is faid to be the image, the refemblance, the re- 
prefentative of the fun, if there be a fun. It is from the exiflence 
of the idea that we mufl infer the exiflence of the fun. But the 
idea, being immediately perceived, there can be no doubt, as 
Philofophers think, of its exiflence. 

In like manner, when I remember, or when I imagine any thing, 
all men acknowledge that there mufl be fomething that is remem- 
bered, or that is imagined; that is, fome objedl of thofe operations. 
The objedl remembered mufl be fomething that did exifl in time 
pafl. The objedl imagined may be fomething that never exifled. 
But, fay the Philofophers, befides thefe objedls which all men ac- 
knowledge, there is a more immediate obje<5l which really exifls 
in the mind at the fame time we remember or imagine. This ob- 
jed is an idea or image of the thing remembered or imagined. 

Thsjirji refledlion I would make on this philofophical opinion 
if, That it is diredlly contrary to the univerfal fenfe of men who 
have not been inflrudled in philofophy. When we fee the fun or 
moon, we have no doubt that the very objedls which we immedi- 
ately fee, are very far diflant from us, and from one another. We 
have not the leafl doubt that this is the fun and moon which God 
created fome thoufands of years ago, and which have continued to 



perform their revolutions in the heavens ever fince. But how are ^^^^^^f^' 

we aftonilhed when the Philofopher informs us, that we are mif- 

taken in all this ; that the fun and moon which we fee, are not, 

as we imagine, many miles diftaijt from us, and from each other, 

but that they are in our own mind ; that they had no exiflence 

before we faw them, and will have none when we ceafe to perceive 

and to think of them ; becaufe the objedls we perceive arc only 

ideas in our own minds, which can have no exiftence a moment 

longer than we think of them. 

If a plain man, uninftrudled in philofophy, has faith to receive 
thefe myfteries, how great muft be his aftonilhment. He is brought 
into a new world where every thing he fees, taftes, or touches, h 
an idea; a fleeting kind of being which he can conjure into exifl- 
ence, or can annihilate in the twinkling of an eye. 

After his mind is fomewhat compofed, it will be natural for him 
to aflc his philofophical inftrudor. Pray, Sir, are there then no fub- 
ftantial and permanent beings called the fun and moon, which con- 
tinue to exift whether we think of them or not ? 

Here the Philofophers differ. Mr Locke, and thofe that were 
before him, will anfwer to this queftion. That it is very true, there 
are fubftantial and permanent beings called the fun and moon ; 
but they never appear to us in their own perfon, but by their re- 
prefentatives, the ideas in our own minds, and we know nothing 
of them but what we can gather from thofe ideas. 

Bifhop Berkeley and Mr Hume would give a different anfwer 
to the queflion propofed : They would afTure the querift, that it is 
a vulgar error, a mere prejudice of the ignorant and unlearned, to 
think that there are any permaiient and fubftantial beings called 
the fun and moon ; that the heavenly bodies, our own bodies^ 
and all bodies whatfoever, are nothing but ideas in our minds ; 
and that there can be nothing like the ideas of one mind, but the- 


20O ' E S S A Y 11. 

CHAP.xiy . ideas of another mind. There is nothing in nature but minds and 
ideas, fays the Bifliop, nay, fays Mr Hume, there is nothing in 
nature but ideas only ", for what we call a mind is nothing but a 
train of ideas conne<5led by certain relations between themfelves. 

In this reprefcntation of the theory of ideas, there is nothing ex- 
aggerated or mifreprefented, as far as I am able to judge ; and 
furely nothing farther is necelTary to Ihew, that, to the uninflruded 
in philofophy, it muft appear extravagant and vifionary, and moft 
contrary to the didlates of common underftanding. 

There is the lefs need of any farther proof of this, that it is very 
amply acknowledged by Mr Hume in his EfTay on the academical 
or fceptical Philofophy. " It feems evident, fays he, that men are 
" carried by a natural inflindl, or prepoireffion, to repofe faith in 
*' their fenfes ; and that without any reafoning, or even almoft 
" before the ufe of reafon, we always fuppofe an external univerfe, 
" .which depends not on our perception, but would exift though 
" we and every fenfible creature were abfent or annihilated. Even 
" the animal creation are governed by a like opinion, and preferve 
" this belief of external objedls in all their thoughts, defigns, and 
" aaions." 

" It feems alfo evident, that when men follow this blind and 
powerful inflincfl of nature, they always fuppofe the very images 
prefented by the fenfes to be the external objedls, and never en- 
tertain any fufpicion, that the one are nothing but reprefenta- 
tions of the other. This very table which we fee white, and 
feel hard, is believed to exift independent of our perception, and 
to be fomething external to the mind which perceives it ; our 
prefence beftows not being upon it ; our abfence annihilates it 
not : It preferves its exiftence uniform and entire, independent 
of the fituation of intelligent beings who perceive or contem- 
plate it." 

" But 



" But this univerfal and primary notion of all men is foon de- CHAP.XIV - 
flroyed by the flighteft philoibphy, which teaches us, that no- 
thing can ever be prefent to the mind, buc an image or percep- 
tion ; and that the fenfes are only the inlets through which thefe 
images are received, without being ever able to produce any 
immediate intercourfe between the mind and the objedl." 

It is therefore acknowledged by this Philofopher, to be a natural 
inftindl or prepoffeffion, an univerfal and primary opinion of all 
men, a primary inftindl of nature, that the objedls which we im- 
mediately perceive by our fenfes, are not images in our minds, but 
external objecfls, and that their exiftence is independent of us, and 
our perception. 

In this acknowledgment, Mr Hume indeed feems to me more 
generous, and even more ingenuous than Bifliop Berkeley, who 
would perfuade us, that his opinion does not oppofe the vulgar 
opinion, but only that of the Philofophers ; and that the external 
exiftence of a material world is a philofophical hypothefis, and not 
the natural didlate of our perceptive powers. The Bifhop Ihows a 
timidity of engaging fuch an adverfary, as a primary and univerfal 
opinion of all men. He is rather fond to court its patronage. But 
the Philofopher intrepidly gives a defiance to this antagonift, and 
feems to glory in a confli6l that was worthy of his arm. Optat apruni 
aut fulvtim defcendere monte leonem. After all, I fufpefl that a Philo- 
fopher, who wages war with this adverfary, will find himfelf in the 
fame condition as a Mathematician who {hould undertake to de- 
monftrate, that there is no truth in the axioms of mathematics. 

Afecond refledlion upon this fubje6l is. That the authors who 
have treated of ideas, have generally taken their exiftence for 
granted, as a thing that could not be called in queftion ; and fuch 
arguments as they have mentioned incidentally, in order to prove 
it, feem too weak to fupport the conclufion. 

C c Mr 

202 E S S A Y n. 

CHAPXiv. jyj,. Locke, in the introdudion to his Eflky, tells us, that he 
ufes the word idea to fignlfy whatever is the immediate objed: of 
thought ; and then adds, " I prefume it will be eafily granted me 
" that there are fuch ideas in mens minds ; every one isconfcious 
" of them in himfelf, and mens words and adlions will fatisfy him 
" that they are in others." I am indeed confcious of perceiving, 
remembering, imagining ; but that the objects of thefe operations 
are images in my mind, I am not confcious. I am fatisfied by 
mens words and acflions, that they often perceive the fame objedls 
which I perceive, which could not be, if thofe obje<5ls were ideas 
in their own minds. 


Mr NoRRis is the only author I have met with, who profefledly 
puts the queftion, "Whether material things can be perceived by 
us immediately ? He has offered four arguments to fliow that they 
cannot. Firjl^ " Material objedls are without the mind, and there- 
fore there can be no union between the objedl and the percipient." 
Anfwer^ This argument is lame, until it is Ihown to be neceflary 
that in perception there fhould be a union between the objed and 
. the percipient. Second^ " Material objedls are difproportioned to 
" the mind, and removed from it by the whole diameter of Being." 
This argument I cannot anfwer, becaufe I do not underfland it. 
Thirds " Becaufe, if material objedls were immediate objetfts of 
" perception, there could be no phyfical fcience ; things neceflary 
" and immutable being the only object of fcience." Anfwer^ Al- 
though things neceflary and immutable be not the immediate ob- 
je6ls of perception, they may be immediate objedls of other powers 
of the mind. Fourth^ *' If material things were perceived by 
" themfelves, they would be a true light to our minds, as being 
" the intelligible form of our underftandings, and confequently 
" perfe(nive of them, and indeed fuperior to them." If I com- 
prehend any thing of this myft;erious argument, it follows from 
it, that the Deity perceives nothing at all, becaufe nothing can be 
fuperior to his underftanding, or pcrfedive of it. 



There is an argument which is hinted at by Malebranche, and C HAPXIV - 
by feveral other authors, which deferves to be more ferioufly con- 
fidered. As I find it mofl: clearly exprefTed, and mod fully urged 
by Dr Samuel Clarke, I fliall give it in his words, in his fe- 
cond reply to Leibnitz, fedl. 4. " The foul, without being pre- 
*' fent to the images of the things perceived, could not poflibly 
" perceive them. A living fubftance can only there perceive, 
" where it is prefent, either to the things themfelves, (as the om- 
" niprefent God is to the whole univerfe), or to the images of 
" things, as the foul is in its proper ^;j/or/«/w.""' 

Sir Isaac Newton exprefles the fame fentiment, but with his 
ufual referve, in a query only. 

The ingenious Dr Porterfield, in his Effay concerning the 
motions of our eyes, adopts this opinion with more confidence. 
His words are : " How body adls upon mind, or mind upon 
" body, I know not ; but this I am very certain of, that 
" nothing can a(5t, or be acSled upon, where it is not; and 
" therefore our mind can never perceive any thing but its own 
" proper modifications, and the various ftates of the fenforium, 
" to which it is prefent : So that it is not the external fun and 
" moon which are in the heavens, which our mind perceives, but 
" only their image or reprefentation impreffed upon the fenforium. 
" How the foul of a feeing man Cees thefe images, or how it re- 
*' ceives thofe ideas, from fuch agitations in the fenforium, I know 
" not ; but I am fure it can never perceive the external bodies 
" themfelves, to which it is not prefent." 

Thefe, indeed, are great authorities ; but, in matters of philo- 
fophy, we mufl: not be guided by authority, but by reafon. Dr 
Clarke, in the place cited, mentions flightly, as the reafon of his 
opinion, that " nothing can any more adl, or be adled upon, 
" when it is not prefent, than it can be where it is not." And 
again, in his third reply to Leibnitz, fed. ii. " We are fure 

C c 2 " the 



CHA F.XIV . « ti^e foul cannot perceive what it is not prefent to, becaufe no- 
" thing can adl, or be a(5led upon, where it is not." The fame 
reafon we fee is urged by Dr Porterfield. 

That nothing can adl imniediately where it is not, I think mufl 
be admitted; for I agree with Sir Isaac Newton, that power 
without fubftance is; inconceivable. It is a confequence of this, 
that nothing can be adled upon immediately where the agent is not 
prefent : Let this therefore be granted. To make the reafoning 
conclufive, it is farther neceffary, that, when we perceive objedls, 
either they adl upon us, or we adl upon them. This does not ap- 
pear felf-evident, nor have I ever met with any proof of it. I 
fliall briefly offer the reafons why I think it ought not to be ad- 

When we fay that one being adls upon another, we mean that 
fome power or force is exerted by the agent, which produces, or 
has a tendency to produce, a change in the thing adled upon. If 
this be the meaning of the phrafe, as I conceive it is, there appears 
no reafon for afferting, that, in perception, either the objedl adls 
upon the mind, or the mind upon the objedl. 

An objedl, in being perceived, does not adl at all. I perceive 
the walls of the room where I fit ; but they are perfedlly inadlive, 
and therefore adl not upon the mind. To be perceived, is what 
Logicians call an external denomination, which implies neither ac- 
tion nor quality in the objedl perceived. Nor could men ever 
have gone into this notion, that perception is owing to fome adlion 
of the objedl upon the mind, were it not, that we are fo prone to 
form our notions of the mind from fome fimilitude we conceive 
between it and body. Thought in the mind is conceived to have 
fome analogy to motion in a body : And as a body is put in mo- 
tion, by being adled upon by fome other body ; fo we are apt to 
think the mind is made to perceive, by fome impulfe it receives 
from the objedl. But reafonings, drawn from fuch analogies, 



ought never to be trufled. They are, indeed, the caufe of mod CHAF.XIV . 
of our errors with regard to the mind. And we might as well 
conclude, that minds may be meafured by feet and inches, or 
weighed by ounces and drachms, becaufe bodies have thofe pro- 

I fee as little reafon, in the fccond place, to believe, that in per- 
ception the mind adls upon the objedl. To perceive an obje6l is 
one thing ; to adl upoii it is another : Nor is the laft at all inclu- 
ded in the firft. To fay, that I adt upon the wall, by looking at it, 
is an abufe of language, and has no meaning. Logicians diftin- 
guifli two kinds of operations of mind ; the firft kind produces no 
eflfedl without the mind ; the laft does. The firft they call imma- 
nent aEis^ the fecond tranfitive. All intelledlual operations belong 
to the firft clafs ; they produce no efFedl upon any external objedl. 
But without having recourfe to logical diftin(5lions, every man of 
common fenfe knows, that to think of an objedl, and to adl upon 
it, are very different things. 

As we have therefore no evidence, that, in perception, the mind 
adls upon the objedl, or the objedl upon the mind, but ftrong 
reafons to the contrary ; Dr Clarke's argument againft our per- 
ceiving external objedls immediately falls to the ground. 

This notion, that, in perception, the objedl muft be contiguous 
to the percipient, feems, with many other prejudices, to be bor- 
rowed from analogy. In all the external fenfes, there muft, as 
has been before obferved, be fome imprefllon made upon the or- 
gan of fenfe by the objedl, or by fbmething coming from the ob- 
jedt. An impreflion fuppofes contiguity. Hence we are led by 
analogy to conceive fomething fimilar in the operations of the 
mind. Many Philofophers refolve almoft every operation of mind 
into impreflions and feelings, words manifeftly borrowed from the 
fenfe of touch. And it is very natural to conceive contiguity ne- 
cefTary between that which makes the impreflion, and that which 


ao6 ESSAY II. 

CHAP XIV receives it ; between that which feels, and that which is felt. And 
though no Philofopher will now pretend to juftify fuch analogical 
reafoning as this j yet it has a powerful influence upon the judg- 
ment, v/hile we contemplate the operations of our minds, only as 
they appear through the deceitful medium of fuch analogical no- 
tions and expreffions. 

When we lay afide thofe analogies, and refledl attentively upon 
our perception of the objecHis of fenfe, we muft acknowledge, that, 
though we are confcious of perceiving objedls, we are altogether 
ignorant how it is brought about ; and know as little how we per- 
ceive objeds as how we were made. And if we fhould admit an 
image in the mind, or contiguous to it, we know as little how 
perception may be produced by this image as by the mofl; diflant 
objedl. Why therefore fhould we be led, by a theory which is 
neither grounded on evidence, nor, if admitted, can explain any 
one phaenomenon of perception, to rejedl the natural and imme- 
diate dictates of thofe perceptive powers, to which, in the conduct 
of life, we find a necefhty of yielding implicit fubmiflion ? 

There remains only one other argument that I have been able to 
find urged againft our perceiving external objedls immediately. It 
is propofed by Mr Hume, who, in the Eflay already quoted, after 
acknowledging that it is an univerfal and primary opinion of all 
men, that we perceive external obje(5ls immediately, fubjoins what 

" But this univerfal and primary opinion of all men is foon de- 

" ftroyed by the flighted philofophy, which teaches us, that no- 
thing can ever be prefent to the mind but an image or percep- 

" tion ; and that the fenfes are only the inlets through which thefe 
images are received, without being ever able to produce any im- 

*' mediate intercourfe between the mind and the objed. TJie 
table, which we fee, feems to diminifh as we remove farther 

** from it : But the real table, which exifts independent of us, fuf- 

" fers 


" fers no alteration. It was therefore nothing but its image which ^^HAP^OV- 

" was prefent to the mind. Thefe are the obvious didtates of rea- 

" fon ; and no man who reflecfls, ever doubted that the exiftences 

" which we confider, when we fay this bou/e, and ihat tree^ are no- 

" thing but perceptions in the mind, and fleeting copies and re- 

" prefentations of other exiftences, which remain uniform and in- 

" dependent. So far then, we are neceflltated, by reafoning, to 

" depart from the primary inftinfts of nature, and to embrace a 

" new fyftem with regard to the evidence of our fenfes." 

We have here a remarkable confli(5l between two contradi(5lory 
opinions, wherein all mankind are engaged. On the one fide 
ftand all the vulgar, who are unpradlifed in philofophical refearches, 
and guided by the uncorrupted primary inftin6ts of nature. On 
the other fide, ftand all the Philofophers ancient and modern ; eve- 
ry man without exception who refle<5ts. In this divifion, to my 
great humiliation, 1 find myfelf claflTed with the vulgar. 

The pafTage now quoted is all I have found in Mr Hume's wri- 
tings upon this point ; and indeed there is more reafoning in it 
than I have found in any other author ; I fliall therefore examine 
it minutely. 

Firji^ He tells us. That " this univerfal and primary opinion of all 
" men is foon deftroyed by the flighteft philofophy, which teaches 
" us, that nothing can ever be prefent to the mind but an image 
" or perception." 

The phrafe of being prefent to the mind has fome obfcurity ; but 
I conceive he means being an immediate obje<5l of thought ; an 
immediate objedl, for inftance, of perception, of memory, or of 
imagination. If this be the meaning, (and it is the only pertinent 
one I can think of), there is no more in this paflage but an aflTertion 
of the propofition to be proved, and an aflertion that philofophy 
teaches it. If this be fo, I beg leave to diflent from philofophy 


2o8 E S S A Y II. 

CHAP.Xlv. till fl^c gives me reafon for what flie teaches. For though common 
fenfe and my external fenfes demand my affent to their didlates 
upon their own authority, yet philofophy is not entitled to this 
privilege. But that I may not difTent from fo grave a perfonage 
without giving a reafon, I give this as the reafon of my diffent. I 
fee the fun when he fliines ; I remember the battle of Culloden j 
and neither of thefe objedls is an image or perception. 

He tells us in the next place, " That the fenfes are only the in- 
" lets through which thefe images are received." 

I know that Aristotle and the fchoolmen taught, -that images 
or fpecies flow from objeds, and are let in by the fenfes, and flrike 
upon the mind ; but this has been fo efFe(5lually refuted by Des 
Cartes, by Malebranche, and many others, that nobody now 
pretends to defend it. Reafonable men confider it as one of the 
moft unintelligible and unmeaning parts of the ancient fyftem. To 
what caufe is it owing that modern Philofophers are fo prone to 
fall back into this hypothefis, as if they really believed it ? For of 
this pronenefs I could give many inftances befides this of Mr Hume ; 
and I take the caufe to be, that images in the mind, and images 
let in by the fenfes, are fo nearly allied, and fo ftridlly conneflcd, 
that they muft (land or fall together. The old fyftem confiftently 
maintained both : But the new fyftem has rejedled the dodlrine of 
images let in by the fenfes, holding, neverthelefs, that there are 
images in the mind ; and, having made this unnatural divorce of 
two dodlrines which ought not to be put afunder, that which they 
have retained often leads them back involuntarily to that which 
they have rejedled. 

Mr Hume farely did not ferioufly believe that an image of found 
is let in by the ear, an image of fmell by the nofe, an image of 
hardnefs and foftnefs, of folidity and refiftance, by the touch. 
For, befides the abfurdity of the thing, which has often been 
ftiown, Mr Hume, and all modern Philofophers maintain, that the 



images which are the immediate objedls of perception have no ex- C HAP- Xiv - 
iftence when they are not perceived ; whereas, if they were let in 
by the fenfes, they muft be, before they are perceived, and have '^j 
a feparate exiftence. 

He tells us farther, that philofophy teaches, that the fenfes arc 
unable to produce any immediate intercourfe between the mind 
and the objcd. Here, I ftill require the reafons that philofophy 
gives for this ; for, to my apprehenfion, I immediately perceive ex- 
ternal objects, and this I conceive is the immediate intercourfe 
here meant. 

Hitherto I fee nothing that can be called an argument. Perhaps 
it was intended only for illuftration. The argument, the only ar- 
gument follows : 

The table which we fee, feems to diminifli as we remove farther 
from it ; but the real table which exifts independent of us fuffers 
no alteration : It was therefore nothing but its image which was 
prefented to the mind. Thefe are the obvious dictates of reafon. 

To judge of the ftrength of this argument, it is neceffary to at- 
tend to a diftindlion which is familiar to thofe who are converfant 
in the mathematical fciences, I mean the diflin(5lion between real 
and apparent magnitude. The real magnitude of a line is mea- 
fured by fome known meafure of length, as inches, feet, or miles : 
The real magnitude of a furface or folid, by known meafures of 
furface or of capacity. This magnitude is an objedl of touch only, 
and not of fight ; nor could we even have had any conception of 
it, without the fenfe of touch ; and Bifhop Berkeley, on tliat ac- 
count, calls it tangible magnitude. 

Apparent magnitude is meafured by the angle which an obje<H: 
fubtends at the eye. Suppofing two right lines drawn from the 
eye to the extremities of the obje«5l making an angle, of which the 

D d objea 

210 ESSAY 11. 

CHAf-XlV- obje(5l is the fubtenfe, the apparent magnitude is meafured by this 
angle. This apparent magnitude is an obje(fl of fight, and not of 
touch. Bifliop Berkeley calls it viftble magnitude. 

If it is a£ked, what is the apparent magnitude of the fun's dia- 
meter ? the anfwer is, that it is about thirty-one minutes of a de- 
gree. But if it is afkcd, what is the real magnitude of the fun's 
diameter? the anfwer muft be, fo many thoufand miles, or fo 
many diameters of the earth. From which it is evident, that real 
magnitude, and apparent magnitude, are things of a different na- 
ture, though the name of magnitude is given to both. Tlie firll 
has three dimenfions, the laft only two. The firft is meafured by 
a line, the laft by an angle. 

From what has been faid, it is evident that the real magnitude 
of a body muft continue unchanged, while the body is unchanged. 
This we grant. But is it likewife evident, that the apparent mag- 
nitude muft continue the fame while the body is unchanged ? So 
far otherwife, that every man who knows any thing of mathematics 
can eafily demonftrate, that the fame individual obje^, remaining 
in the fame place, and unchanged, muft neccffarily vary in its ap- 
parent magnitude, according as the point from which it is feen is 
more or lefs diftant ; and that its apparent length or breadth will 
be nearly in a reciprocal proportion to the diftancc of the fpedlator. 
This is as certain as the principles of geometry. 

We muft likewife attend to this, that though the real magnitude 
of a body is not originally an objedl of fight, but of touch, yet we 
learn by experience to judge of the real magnitude in many cafes 
by fight. We learn by experience to judge of the diftance of a 
body from the eye within certain limits ; and froni its diftance 
and apparent magnitude taken together, we learn to judge of its 
real magnitude. 

And this kind of judgment, by being repeated every hour, and 



almoft every minute of our lives, becomes, when we are grown up, C HAP- Xiv . 
fo ready and fo habitual, that it very much refembles the original 
perceptions of our fenfes, and may not improperly be called acquis 
red perception. 

Whether we call it judgment or acquired perception is a verbal 
difference. But it is evident, that, by means of it, we often difco- 
ver by one fenfe things which are properly and naturally the ob- 
jeds of another. Thus I can fay without impropriety, I hear a 
drum, I hear a great bell, or I hear a fmall bell ; though it is cer- 
tain that the figure or fize of the founding body is not originally 
an objecSl of hearing. In like manner, we learn by experience how 
a body of fuch a real magnitude, and at fuch a diftance appears to 
the eye : But neither its real magnitude, nor its diftance from the 
eye, are properly objeiSts of fight, any more than the form of a 
drum, or the fize of a bell, are properly objedls of hearing. 

If thefe things be confidered, it will appear, that Mr Hume's 
argument hath no force to fupport his conclufion, nay, that it leads 
to a contrary conclufion. The argument is this, the table we fee 
feems to diminifla as we remove farther frorft it ; that is, its appa- 
rent magnitude is diminifhed ; but the real table fuifers no altera- 
tion, to wit, in its real magnitude ; therefore it is not the real /'IO 
table we fee : I admit both the premifes in this fyllogifm, but I 
deny the conclufion. The fyllogifm has what the Logicians call 
two middle terms : Apparent magnitude is the middle term in the 
firft premife ; real magnitude in the fecond. Therefore, according 
to the rules of logic, the conclufion is not juftly drawn from the 
premifes ; but, laying afide the rules of logic, let us examine it 
by the light of common fenfe. 

Let us fuppofe, for a moment, that it is the real table we fee : 
Muft not this real table feem to diminifli as we remove farther 
from it ? It is demonftrable that it muft. How then can this ap- 
parent diminution be a.jx argument that it is not the re^l table ? 

D d a When 



CHAP. XIV. "When that which muft happen to the real table, as we remove far- 
ther from it, does adlually happen to the table we fee, it is abfurd 
to conclude from this, that it is not the real table we fee. It is 
evident therefore, that this ingenious author has impofed upon 
himfelf by confounding real magnitude with apparent magnitude, 
and that his argument is a mere fophifm. 

I obferved that Mr Hume's argument not only has no ftrength 
to fupport his conclufion, but that it leads to the contrary conclu- 
fion ; to wit, that it is the real table we fee ; for this plain reafon, 
that the table we fee has precifely that apparent magnitude which 
it is demonftrable the real table muft have when placed at that 

This argument is made much ftronger by confidering, that the 
real table may be placed fucceffively at a thoufand different di- 
ftances ; and in' every diftance, in a thoufand difierent politions ; 
and it can be determined demonftratively, by the rules of geometry 
and perfpetSlive, what muft be its apparent magnitude, and appa- 
rent figure, in each of thofe diftances and politions. Let the table 
be placed fucceffively in as many of thofe different diftances, and 
different pofitions, as you will, or in them all ; open your eyes 
and you fhall fee a table precifely of that apparent magnitude, and 
that apparent figure, which the real table muft have in that diftance, 
and in that pofition. Is not this a ftrong argument that it is the 
real table you fee ? 

In a word, the appearance of a vifible obje^fl is infinitely diver- 
fified, according to its diftance and pofition. The vifible appear- 
ances are innumerable, when we confine ourfelves to one objed., 
and they are multiplied according to the variety of objects. Thofe 
appearances have been matter of fpeculation to ingenious men, at 
leaft fince the time of Euclid. They have accounted for all this 
variety, on the fuppofirion, that the objects we fee are external, and 
not in the mind itfelf The rules they have demonftrated abont 



the various projedlions of the fphere, about the appearances of the CHAP. Xiv. 

planets in their progreffions, ftations, and retrogradations, and aU 

the rules of perfpecflive, are built on the fuppofition that the obje6ls 

of fight are external. They can each of them be tried in thoufands^ 

of inflances. In many arts and profeflions innumerable trials are 

daily made ; nor were they ever found to fail in a fingle inftance. 

Shall we fay that a falfe fuppofition, invented by the rude vulgar, 

has been fo lucky in folving an infinite number of phenomena of 

nature ? This furely would be a greater prodigy than philofophy 

ever exhibited : Add to this, that upon the contrary hypothefis, to 

wit, that the objedls of fight are internal, no account can be given 

of any one of thofe appearances, nor any phyfical caufe affigned 

tvhy a vifible obje(5l fliould, in any one cafe, have one apparent 

figure and magnitude rather than another. 

Thus I have confidered every argument I have found advanced 
to prove the exiftence of ideas, or images of external things, in the 
mind : And if no better arguments can be found, I cannot help 
thinking, that the whole hiftory of philofophy has never furnifhed 
an inftance" of an opinion fo unanimoufly entertained by Philofo- 
phers upon fo flight grounds. 

A third refledlion I would make upon this fubjeft is. That Philo- 
fophers, notwithftanding their unanimity as to the exiftence of ideas,, 
hardly agree in any one thing elfe concerning them. If ideas be ^"^ 
not a mere fidion, they muft be, of all objeds of human know- ^- 
ledge, the things we have beft accefs to know, and to be acquainted 
with ; yet there is nothing about which men differ fo much. 

Some have held them to be felf-exiftent, others to be in the 
Divine Mind, others in our own minds, and others in the brain 
ox fenjoriiim ; I confidered the hypothefis of images in the brain, in 
the fourth chapter of this Effay. As to images in the mind, if any 
thing more is meant by the image of an objecfl in the mind than 
the thought of that objed, I know not what it means. The diftind 


214 E S S A Y II. 

CHAP XIV conception of an objed may, in a metaphorical or analogical fenfe, 
'' be called an image of it in the mind. But this image is only the 

conception of the objed, and not the objed conceived. It is an 
ad of the mind, and not the objedl of that a<5l. 

Some Philofophers will have our ideas, or a part of them, to be 
innate ; others will have them all to be adventitious : Some derive 
them from the fenfes alone ; others from fenfation and refledion : 
Some think they are fabricated by the mind itfelf ; others that they 
are produced by external objeds ; others that they are the imme- 
diate operation of the Deity ; others fay, that imprefTions are the 
caufes of ideas, and that the caufes of impreffions are unknown : 
Some think that we have ideas only of material objects, but none 
of minds, of their operations, or of the relations of things ; others 
will have the immediate objedl of every thought to be an idea : 
Some think we have abftrad ideas, and'that by this chiefly we are 
diftinguiflied from the brutes ; others maintain an abftrad idea to 
, be an abfurdity, and that there can be no fuch thing : With fome 
they are the immediate objedls of thought, with others the only 

A fourth reflection is, That ideas do not make any of the opera- 
tions of the mind to be better underilood, although it was proba- 
bly with that view that they have been firft invented, and after- 
wards fo generally received. 

We are at a lofs to know how we perceive difliant objeds ; how 
; we remember things pafl; ; how we imagine things that have no 

exiflence. Ideas in the mind feem to account for all thefe opera- 
tions : They are all by the means of ideas reduced to one opera- 
tion; to a kind of feeling, or immediate perception of things pre- 
fent, and in contad with the percipient ; and feeling is an opera- 
tion fo familiar, that we think it needs no explication, but may 
ferve to explain other operations. 



But this feeling, or immediate perception, is as difficult to be CHAP.xiV. 
comprehended, as the things which wc pretend to explain by it. 
Two things may be in contadl without any feeling or perception; 
there muft therefore be in the percipient a power to feel or to per- 
ceive. How this power is produced, and how it operates, is quite 
beyond the reach of our knowledge. As little can we know whe- 
ther this power muft be limited to things prefent, and in contadl 
with us. Nor can any man pretend to prove, that the Being, who 
gave us the power to perceive things prefent, may not give us the 
power to perceive things that are diftant, to remember things paft, 
and to conceive things that never exifted. 

Some Philofophers have endeavoured to make all our fenfes to» 
be only different modifications of touch ; a theory which ferves 
only to confound things that are different, and to perplex and 
darken things that arc clear. The theory of ideas refembles this, 
by reducing all the operations of the human underftanding to the 
perception of ideas in our own minds. This power of perceiving 
ideas is as inexplicable as any of the powers explained by it : And 
the contiguity of the objedl contributes nothing at all to make it 
better underftood ; becaufe there appears no connetflion between 
contiguity and perception, but what is grounded on prejudices, 
drawn from fome imagined limilitude between mind and body ; 
and from the fuppofition, that, in perception, theobjec5l adls upon 
the mind, or the mind upon the object. Wc have feen how this 
theory has led Philofophers to confound thofe operations of mind, 
which experience teaches all men to be different, and teaches them 
to diftinguifh in common language ; and that it has led them to 
invent a language inconfiftent with the principles upon which all 
language is grounded. 

The lajl refledlion I fhall make upon this theory, is. That the na- 
tural and neceflary confequences of it furnifli a juft prejudice 
againfl it to every man who pays a dvie regard to the commoi> 
fenfe of mankind. 


2i6 E S S A Y II. 


Not to mention, that It led the Pythagoreans and Plato to ima- 
gine that we fee only the fhadows of external things, and not the 
things themfelves, and that it gave rife to the Peripatetic dodrine 
of knCible ^ecies, one of the greatefl: abfurdities of that ancient 
fyftem, let us only conlider the fruits it has produced, fince it was 
new-modelled by Des Cartes. That great reformer in philofophy 
faw the abfurdity of the do<5lrine of ideas coming from external 
obje(5ls, and refuted it efFedlually, after it had been received by 
Philofophers for thoufands of years ; but he ftill retained ideas in 
the brain and in the mind. Upon this foundation all our modern 
fyftems of the powers of the mind are built. And the tottering 
ftate of thofe fabrics, though built by fkilful hands, may give a 
ftrong fufpicion of the unfoundnefs of the foundation. 

It was this theory of ideas that led Des Cartes, and thofe that 
followed him, to think it neceflary to prove, by philofophical ar- 
guments, the exiftence of material obje<5ls. And who does not fee 
that philofophy mufl make a very ridiculous figure in the eyes of 
fenfible men, while it is employed in muftering up metaphyfical 
arguments, to prove that there is a fun and a moon, an earth and 
a fea : Yet we find thefe truly great men, Des Cartes, Male- 
BRANCHE, Arnauld, and Locke, ferioufly employing themfelves 
in this argument. 

Surely their principles led them to think, that all men, from the 
beginning of the world, believed the exiftence of thefe things 
.upon infufEcient grounds, and to think that they would be able to 
place upon a more rational foundation this univerfal belief of man- 
kind. But the misfortune is, that all the laboured arguments 
they have advanced, to prove the exiftence of thofe things we fee 
and feel, are mere fophifms : Not one of them will bear exami- 

I might mention feveral paradoxes, which Mr Locke, though 
by no means fond of paradoxes, was led into by this theory of 



ideas. Such as, that the fecondary quaUties of body are no quali- ^^^^•'^^^; 
ties of body at all, but fenfations of the mhid : That" the primary 
qualities of body are refemblances of our fenfations : That we 
have no notion of duration, but from the fucceflion of ideas in 
our minds : That perfonal identity conlifts in confcioufnefs ; fo 
that the fame individual thinking being may make two or three 
different perfons, and feveral different thinking beings make one 
perfon : That judgment is nothing but a perception of the agree- 
ment or difagreement of our ideas. Moft of thefe paradoxes I 
fhall have occafion to examine. 

However, all thefe confe'quences of the docflrine of ideas were 
tolerable, compared with thofe which came afterwards to be dif- 
covered by Berkeley and Hume. That there is no material 
world : No abllra(fl ideas or notions : That the mind is only a 
train of related impreffions and ideas, without any fubjedl on 
which they may be imprefTed : That there is neither fpace nor 
time, body nor mind, but impreffions and ideas only : And, to 
fum up all. That there is no probability, even in demonflration 
itfelf, nor any one propofition more probable than its contrary. 

Thefe are the noble fruits which have grown upon this theory 
of ideas, fince it began to be cultivated by flcilful hands. It is 
no wonder that fenfible men fhould be difgufted at philofophy, 
when fuch wild and Ihocking paradoxes pafs under its name. 
However, as thefe paradoxes have, with great acutenefs and inge- 
nuity, been deduced by jufl reafoning from the theory of ideas, 
they muft at lad bring this advantage, that pofitions fo fhocking 
to the common fenfe of mankind, and fo contrary to the decifions 
of all our intelledlual powers, will open mens eyes, and break 
the force, of the prejudice which hath held them entangled in 
that theory. 

E e CHAP. 

2i8 ESSAY ir. 



Account of the Syjlem of Li^in'iiiTZ. 

THERE is yet another fyflem concerning perception, of which 
I (hall give fome account, becaufe of the fame of its author. 
It is the invention of the famous German Philofopher Leibnitz, 
who, while he lived, held the firfl rank among the Germans in 
all parts of philofophy, as well as in mathematics, in jurifpru- 
dence, in the knowledge of antiquities, and in every branch, both 
of fcience and of literature. He was highly refpedled by empe- 
rors, and by many kings and princes, who beftowed upon him 
fingular marks of their efteem. He was a particular favourite of 
our Queen Caroline, confort of George II. with whom he 
continued his correfpondence by letters after llie came to the 
Crown of Britain, till his death. 

The famous controverfy between him and the Britlfli Mathe- 
maticians, whether he or Sir Isaac Newton was the inventor 
of that noble improvement in mathematics, called by Newton 
the method of fluxions, and by Leibnitz the differential method, 
engaged the attention of the Mathematicians in Europe for feveral 
years. He had llkewife a controverfy with the learned and ju- 
dicious Dr Samuel Clarke, about feveral points of the Newtonian 
philofophy which he difapproved. The papers which gave occa- 
fion to this controverfy, with all the replies and rejoinders, had 
the honour to be tranfmitted from the one party to the other 
through the hands of Queen Caroline, and were afterwards 

His authority, in all matters of philofophy, is ftill fo great 
in moft parts of Germany, that they are considered as bold fpirits, 



and a kind of heretics, who difTent from him in any thing. Ca- CHAP. XV . 

ROLUS WoLFius, the moft voluminous writer in philofophy of 

this age, is confidered as the great interpreter and advocate of the 

Leibnitzian fyftem, and reveres as an oracle whatever has dropped 

from the pen of Leibnitz. This author propofed two great 

works upon the mind. The firft, which I have feen, he pubjifli- 

ed with the title of Pfychologia empirica, feu experimentalis. The 

other was to have the title of Pfychologia rationa/is, and to it he 

refers for his explication of the theory of Leibnitz with regard 

to the mind. But whether it was publiftied I have not learned, 

I muft therefore take the fhort account I am to give of this 
fyftem from the writings of Leibnitz himfelf, without the light 
which his interpreter Wolfius may have thrown upon it. 

Leibnitz conceived the whole univerfe, bodies as well as 
minds, to be made up of monads, that is, fimple fubftances, each 
of which is, by the Creator in the beginning of its exiftence, en- 
dowed with certain adlive and perceptive powers. A monad, 
therefore, is an a(Slive fubftance, fimple, without parts or figure, 
which has within itfelf the power to produce all the changes it 
undergoes from the beginning of its exiftence to eternity. The 
changes which the monad undergoes, of what kind foever, though 
they may feem to us the eflfetfl of caufes operating from without, 
yet they are only the gradual and fucceffive evolutions of its own 
internal powers, which would have produced all the fame changes 
and motions, although there had been no other being in the uni- 

Every human foul is a monad joined to an organifed body, 
which organifed body confifts of an infinite number of monads, 
each having fome degree of a(5live and of perceptive power in it- 
felf. But the whole machine of the body has a relation to that 
monad which we call the foul, which is, as it were, the centre of 
the whole. 

E e 2 As 

220 ESSAY II. 

CHAP . XV. As the univerfe is completely filled with monads, without any 
chafm or void, and thereby every body a&.s upon every other bo- 
dy, according to its vicinity or diftance, and is mutually readied 
upon by every other body, it follows, fays Leibnitz, that every 
monad is a kind of living mirror, which refledls the whole uni- 
verfe, according to its point of view, and reprefents the whole 
more oi* lefs diftindtly. 

I cannot undertake to reconcile this part of the fyflem with 
what was before mentioned, to wit, that every change in a monad 
is the evolution of its own original powers, and would have hap- 
pened though no other fubftance had been created. But to pro- 

There are different orders of monads, fome higher, and others 
lower. The higher orders he calls dominant ; fuch is the human 
foul. The monads that compofe the organifed bodies of men, 
animals and plants, are of a lower order, and fubfervient to the 
dominant monads. But every monad, of W^iatever order, is a 
complete fubftance in itfelf, indivifible, havin»- no parts, inde- 
ftrudible, becaufe, having no parts, it cannot psvifti by any kind 
of decompofition ; it can only perifh by annihilation-, and we have 
no reafon to believe that God will ever annihilate any of the be- 
ings which he has made. 

The monads of a lower order may, by a regular evolution of 
their powers, rife to a higher order. They may fucceflively be 
joined to organifed bodies, of various forms and different degrees 
of perception ; but they never die, nor ceafe to be in fome de- 
gree a(5live and percipient. 

This Philofopher makes a diftin<5lion between perception and 
what he calls apperception. The firft is common to all monads, the 
lafl proper to the higher orders, among which are hximan fouls. 

- By 


By apperception he underftands that degree of perception 
which refleds, as it were, upon itfelf; by which we are confcious 
of our own exiflerice, and confcious of our perceptions ; by which 
we can reflect upon the operations of our own minds, and can 
comprehend abflradl truths. The mind, in many operations, he 
thinks, particularly in fleep, and in many adions common to us 
with the brutes, has not this apperception, although it is ftill filled 
with a multitude of obfcure and indiflind perceptions, of which 
we are not confcious. 

He conceives that our bodies and minds are united in fuch a 
manner, that neither has any phyfical influence upon the other. 
Each performs all its operations by its own internal fprings and 
powers ; yet the operations of one correfpond exacflly with thofe 
of the other, by a pre-eftabliflied harmony ; juft as one clock 
may be fo adjufted as to keep time with another, although each 
has its own moving power, and neither receives any part of its 
motion from the other. 

So that according to this fyftem all our perceptions of external 
obje<5ls would be the fame, though external things had never ex- 
ifted ; our perception of them would continue, although, by the 
power of God, they fliould this moment be Annihilated : We do 
not perceive external things becaufe they exift, bat becaufe the 
foul was originally fo confliituted as to produce in itfelf all its fuc- 
ceffive changes, and all its fucceffive perceptions, independently of 
the external objeds. 

Every perception or appeixeption, every operation, in a word, of 
the foul, is a necefl^ary confequence of the flate of it immediately 
preceding that operation ; and this (late is the necefl^ary confequence 
of the ftate preceding it ; and fo backwards, until you come to its 
firft formation and conftitution, which produces fuccefllvely, and 
by neceflary confequence, all its fucceflive flates to the end of its 
cxifl:ence : So that in this refped the foul, and every monad, may 





CHAP. XV, be compared to a watch wound up, which having the fpring of its 
motion in itfelf, by the gradual evolution of its own fpring, pro- 
duces all the fucceffive motions we obferve in it. 

In this account of Leibnitz fyftem concerning monads, and 
the pre-eftabliflied harmony, I have kept as nearly as I could to 
his own expreflions, in his new fyjlem of the nature and communication 
of fubjlances f and of the union of foul and body ; and in the fcveral 
illuftrations of that new fyftem which he afterwards publiflied ; 
and in his principles of nature and grace founded in reafon, I fhall 
now make a few remarks upon this fyftem. 

I. To pafs over the irrefiftible neceflity of all human adlions, 
which makes a part of this fyftem, that will be confidered in ano- 
ther place, I obferve firft, that the diftindlion made between per- 
ception and apperception is obfcure and unphilofophical : As far 
as we can difcover, every operation of our mind is attended with 
confcioufnefs, and particularly that which we call the perception 
of external objedls ; and to fpeak of a perception of which we are 
not confcious, is to fpeak without any meaning. ^ 

As confcioufnefs is the only power by which we difcern the ope- 
rations of our own minds, or can form any notion of them, an 
operation of mind of which we are not confcious, is, we know not 
what ; and to call fuch an operation by the name of perception, is 
an abufe of language. No man can perceive an obje<5l, without 
being confcious that he perceives it. No man can think, without 
being confcious that he thinks. What men are not confcious of, 
cannot therefore, without impropriety, be called either perception 
or thought of any kind. And if we will fuppofe operations of 
mind, of which we are not confcious, and give a name to fuch 
creatures of our imagination, that name muft fignify what we 
know nothing about. 

2. To fuppofe bodies organifed or unorganifed, to be made up 



of indivifible monads which have no parts, is contrary to all that CHA P XV . 

we know of body. It is efTential to a body to have parts ; and 

every part of a body, is a body, and has parts alfo. No number 

of parts, without exteniion or figure, not even an infinite number, 

if we may ufe that expreffion, can, by being put together, make 

a whole that has extenfion and figure, which all bodies have. 

3. It is contrary to all that we know of bodies, to afcribe to the 
monads, of which they are fuppofed to be compounded, percep- 
tion and adlive force. If a Philofopher thinks proper to fay, that 
a clod of earth both perceives and has adlive force, let him bring 
his proofs. But he ought not to expefl, that men who have un- 
derflanding, will fo far give it up as to receive without proof what- 
ever his imagination may fuggeft. 

4. This fyftem overturns all authority of our fenfes, and leaves 
not the leaft ground to believe the exiftcnce of the objedls of fenfe, 
or the exiftence of any thing which depends upon the authority 
of our fenfes ; for our perception of objedls, according to this 
fyftem, has no dependence upon any thing external, and would be 
the fame as It is, fuppofing external objedls had never exifted, or 
that they were from this moment annihilated. 

It is remarkable that Leibnitz's fyftem, that of Malebranche, 
and the common fyftem of ideas, or images of external objedls in 
the mind, do all agree in overturning all the authority of our 
fenfes ; and this one thing, as long as men retain their fenfes, will 
always make all thefe fyftems truly ridiculous. 

5. The lafl: obfervatlon I fhall make upon this fyftem, which 
indeed is equally applicable to all the fyftems of perception I have 
mentioned, is, that it is all hypothefis, made up of conjectures 
and fuppofitlons, without proof. The Peripatetics fuppofed fen- 
fible /pecks to be fent forth by the objects of fenfe. The moderns 
fuppofe ideas in the brain, or in the mind. Malebranche fup- 



CHAP. XV. pofed, that we perceive the ideas of the Divine Mind. Leibnitz 
' fuppofed monads and a pre-eftabUlhed harmony ; and thefe monads 
being creatures of his own making, he is at liberty to give them 
what properties and powers his fancy may fuggeft. In Uke man- 
ner, the Indian Philofopher fuppofed that the earth is fupported 
by a huge elephant, and that the elephant (lands on the back of 
a huge tortoifc. 

Such fuppofitions, while there is no proof of them offered, are 
nothing but the fidions of human fancy ; and we ought no more 
to believe them, than we believe Homer'3 ficflions of Apollo's 
filver bow, or Minerva's fhield, or Venus's girdle. Such fic- 
tions in poetry are agreeable to the rules of the art : They are in- 
tended to pleafe, not to convince. But the Philofophers would 
have us to believe their fidlions, though the account they give of 
the phaenomena of nature has commonly no more probability than 
the account that Homer gives of the plague in the Grecian camp, 
from Apollo taking his ftation on a neighbouring mountain, and 
from his filver bow, letting fly his fwift arrows into the camp. 

Men then only begin to have a true tafte in philofophy, when 
they have learned to hold hypothefes in juft contempt ; and to con- 
fider them as the reveries of fpeculative men, which will never 
have any fimilitude to the works of God. 

The Supreme Being has given us fome intelligence of his works, 
by what our fenfes inform us of external things, and by what 
our confcioufnefs and refledlion inform us concerning the opera- 
tions of our own minds. Whatever can be inferred from thefe 
common informations, byjufl and found reafoning, is true and le- 
gitimate philofophy : But what we add to this from conjedlure is 
all fpurious and illegitimate. 

After this long account of the theories advanced by Philofophers, 
to account for our perception of external objeds, I hope it will ap- 



pear, that neither Aristotle's theory of fenfible fpecies, nor CHAP, xv - 
Malebranche's, of our feeing things in God, nor the common 
theory of our perceiving ideas in our own minds, nor Leibnitz's 
theory of monads, and a pre-eftabliflied harmony, give any fa- 
tisfying account of this power of the mind, or make it more in- 
telUgible than it is without their aid. They are conjedlures, and 
if they were true, would folve no difEculty, but raife many new 
ones. It is therefore more agreeable to good fenfe, and to found 
philofophy, to reft fatisfied with what our confcioufnefs and atten- 
tive refle(5lion difcover to us of the nature of perception, than by 
inventing hypothefes, to attempt to explain thing* which are above 
the reach of human underftanding. I believe no man is able to 
explain how we perceive external objeds, any more than how we 
are confcious of thofe that are internal. Perception, confciouf^ 
nefs, memory, and imagination, are all original and fimple powers 
of the mind, and parts of its conftitution. For this reafon, 
though I have endeavoured to fhow, that the theories of Philofo- 
phers on this fubjecfl are ill grounded and infufficient, I do not at- 
tempt to fubftitute any other theory in their place. 

Every man feels that perception gives him an invincible belief 
of the exiftence of that which he perceives ; and that this belief is 
not the effedl of reafoning, but the immediate confequence of per- 
ception. When Philofophers have wearied themfelves and their 
readers with their fpeculations upon this fubjedl, they can neither 
ftrengthen this belief, nor weaken it ; nor can they fhow how it 
is produced. It puts the Philofopher and the peafant upon a level ; 
and neither of them can give any other reafon for believing his 
fenfes, than that he finds it impofhble for him to do otherwife. 

F f CHAP. 

226 E S S A Y II. 

» ,- ' 

Of Senfatiotu 

HAVING finifhed what I intend, with regard to that adl of 
mind which we call the perception of an external objecSl, I 
proceed to confider another, which, by our conftitution, is con- 
joined with perception, and not with perception only, but with 
many other adls of our minds ; and that is fenfation. To prevent 
repetition, I muft refer the reader to the explication of this word 
given in EfTay I. chap. i. 

Almoft all our perceptions have correfponding fenfations which 
conftantly accompany them, and, on that account, are very apt 
to be confounded with them. Neither ought we to expe<5l, that 
the fenfation, and its correfponding perception, fhould be diftin- 
guifhed in common language, becaufe the purpofes of common 
life do not require it. Language is made to ferve the purpofes of 
ordinary converfktion ; and we have no reafon to expecfl that it 
fliould make diftindlions that are not of common ufe. Hence it 
happens, that a quality perceived, and the fenfation correfponding 
to that perception, often go under the fame name. 

This makes the names of mofl: of our fenfations ambiguous, 
and this ambiguity hath very much perplexed Philofophers. It 
will be neceffary to give fome inftances, to illuftrate the diftindlon 
between our fenfations and the objedls of perception. 

When I fmell a rofe, there is in this operation both fenfation 
and perception. The agreeable odour I feel, confidered by itfelf, 
without relation to any external objedl, is merely a fenfation. It 
ajfifedls the mind in a certain way j and this affe<5tion of the mind 


O F S E N S A T I O N. 227 

may be conceived, without a thought of the rofe, or any other CHAP.XV I. 
objedl;. This fenfation can be nothing elfe than it is felt to be. Its 
very elTence confifts in being felt ; and when it is not felt, it is not. 
There is no difference between the fenfation and the feeling of it; . 
they are one and the fame thing. It is for this reafon, that we be- 
fore obferved, that, in fenfation, there is no objed diftind from 
that adl of the mind by which it is felt ; and this holds true with 
regard to all fenfations. 

Let us next attend to the perception which we have in fmelling . 
a rofe. Perception has always an external objedl ; and the objed 
of my perception, in this cafe, is that quality in the rofe which I 
difcern by the fenfe of fmell. Obferving that the agreeable fenfa- 
tion is raifed when the rofe is near, and ceafes when it is removed, 
I am led, by my nature, to conclude fome quality to be in the 
rofe, which is the caufe of this fenfation. This quality in the 
rofe is the objedt perceived ; and that ad of my mind, by which 
I have the convidion and belief of this quality, is what in this 
cafe I call perception. 

But it is here to be obferved, that the fenfation I feel, and the 
quality in the rofe which I perceive, are both called by the fame 
name. The fmell of a rofe is the name given to both : So that 
this name hath two meanings ; and the diftinguifhing its different 
meanings removes all perplexity, and enables us to give clear and 
diftind anfwers to queflions, about which Philofophers have held 
much difpute. 

Thus, if it is afked, Whether the fmell be in the rofe, or in the 
mind that feels it ? The anfwer is obvious : That there are two 
different things fignified by the fmell of a rofe ; one of which is 
in the mind, and can be in nothing but in a fentient being ; the 
other is truly and properly in the rofe. The fenfation which I feel 
is in my mind. The mind is the fentient being ; and as the rofe 
is infentient, there can be no fenfation, nor any thing rcfembllng 

F f 2 fenfation 

228 ESSAY IT. 

CHAP. XVI fenfatlon in it. But this Tenfation in my mind is occafioned by a 
certain quality in the rofe, which is called by the fame name with 
the fenfation, not on account of any fimilitude, but becaufe of 
their conftant concomitancy. 

All the names we have for fmells, taftes, founds, and for the va- 
rious degrees of heat and cold, have a like ambiguity ; and what 
has been faid of the fmell of a rofe may be applied to them. They 
fignify both a fenfation, and a quality perceived by means of that 
fenfation. The firfl; is the fign, the laft the thing fignified. As 
both are conjoined by nature, and as the purpofes of common life 
do not require them to be disjoined in our thoughts, they are both 
expreffed by the fame name : And this ambiguity is to be found 
in all languages, becaufe the reafon of it extends to all. 

The fame ambiguity is found in the names of fuch difeafcs as 
are indicated by a particular painful fenfation : Such as the tooth- 
ach, the headach. The toothach fignifies a painful fenfation, 
which can only be in a fentient being ; but it fignifies alfo a dif- 
order in the body, which has no fimilitude to a fenfation, but is 
naturally connedled with it. 

PrefTing my hand with force againft the table, I feel pain, and 
I feel the table to be hard. The pain is a fenfation of the mind, 
and there is nothing that refembles it in the table. The hardnefs 
is in the table, nor is there any thing refembling it in the mind. 
Feeling is applied to both ; but in a different fenfe ; being a word 
common to the acSl of fenfation, and to that of perceiving by the 
fenfe of touch. 

I touch the table gently with my hand, and I feel it to be 
fmooth, hard, and cold. Thefe are qualities of the table per- 
ceived by touch ; but I perceive them by means of a fenfation 
which indicates them. This fenfation not being painful, I com- 
monly give no attention to it. It carries my thought immediately 


O F S E N S A T I O N. 229 

to the thing fignified by it, and is itfelf forgot, as if it had C HAP.XVI . 
never been. But by repeating it, and turning my attention to it, 
and abftrading my thought from the thing fignified by it, I find 
it to be merely a fenfation, and that it has no fimiUtude to the 
hardnefs, fmoothnefs, or coldnefs of the table which are fignified 
by it. 

It is indeed difficult, at firfl, to disjoin things in our attention 
which have always been conjoined, and to make that an objedl of 
reflexion which never was fo before ; but fome pains and prac- 
tice will overcome this difficulty in thofe who have got the habit 
of refle(5ling on the operations of their own minds. 

Although the prefent fubjedl leads us only to confider the fen- 
fa tions which we have by means of our external fenfes, yet it will 
ferve to illuftrate what has been faid, and I apprehend is of im- 
portance in itfelf to obferve, that many operations of mind, to 
which we give one name, and which we always confider as one 
thing, are complex in their nature, and made up of feveral more 
fimple ingredients ; and of thefe ingredients fenfation very often 
makes one. Of this we fhall give fome inftances. 

The appetite of hunger includes an uneafy fenfation, and a de- 
fire of food. Senfation and defire are diflferent ads of mind. 
The laft, from its nature, muft have an objedl j the firft has no 
obje(5l. Thefe two ingredients may always be feparated in thought ; 
perhaps they fometimes are, in reality ; but hunger includes 

Benevolence towards our fellow-creatures includes an agreeable 
feeling ; but it includes alfo a defire of the happinefs of others. 
The ancients commonly called it defire : Many moderns chufe 
rather to call it a feeling. Both are right ; and they only err 
who exclude either of the ingredients. Whether thefe two ingre- 
dients are neceflarily connedled, is perhaps difficult for us to de- 



CHAP. XV I.. ter mine, there being many neceflary connedtions which we do 
not perceive to be neceflary ; but we can disjoin them in thought. 
They are different ads of the mind. 

An uneafy feeUng, and a defire, are in Hke manner the ingre- 
dients of malevolent affedlions ; fuch as malice, envy, revenge. 
The paflion of fear includes an uneafy fenfation or feeling, and 
an opinion of danger ; and hope is made up of the contrary in- 
gredients. When we hear of a heroic adlion, the fentiment which 
it raifes in our mind is made up of various ingredients. There is 
in it an agreeable feeling, a benevolent affedlion to the perfon, and 
a judgment or opinion of his merit. 

If we thus analyfe the various operations of our minds, we 
Ihall find, that many of them which we confider as perfedly 
fimple, becaufe we have been accuftomed to call them by one 
name, are compounded of more fimple ingredients ; and that fen- 
fation, or feeling which is only a more refined kind of fenfation, 
makes one ingredient, not only in the perception of external ob- 
je(fls, but in moft operations of the mind. 

A fmall degree of refle6lion may fatisfy us that the number 
and variety of Our fenfations and feelings is prodigious : For, to 
omit all thofe which accompany our appetites, paffions, and af- 
fedlions, our moral fentiments, and fentiments of talle, even our 
external fenfes furnifh a great variety of fenfations differing in 
kind, and almoft in every kind an endlefs variety of degrees. 
Every variety we difcern, with regard to tafte, fmell, found, co- 
lour, heat and cold, and in the tangible qualities of bodies, is indi- 
cated by a fenfation correfponding to it^ 

The moft general and the moft important divifion of our fenfa- 
tions and feelings, is into the agreeable, the difagreeable, and the 
indifferent. Every thing we call pleafure, happinefs, or enjovment, 
on the one hand ; and on the other, every thing we call mifery, 


O F S E N S A T I O N. 231 

pain, or uneafinefs. Is fenfation or feeling: For no man can for ^ HAF .XVI. 
the prefenc be more happy, or more miferable than he feels him- 
felf to be. He cannot be deceived with regard to the enjoyment 
or fuffering of the prefent moment. 

But I apprehend, that befides the fenfations that are either 
agreeable or difagrecable, there is ftill a greater number that are 
indifferent. To thefe we give fo little attention that they have no 
name, and are immediately forgot as if they had never been ; and 
it requires attention to the operations of our minds to be convin- 
ced of their exiftence. 

For this end we may obferve, that to a good ear every human 
voice is diftinguifhable from all others. Some voices are pleafant, 
fome difagrecable ; but the far greater part can neither be faid to 
be one or the other. The fame thing may be faid of other founds, 
and no lefs of taftes, fmells, and colours ; and if we confider that 
our fenfes are in continual exercife while we are awake, that fome 
fenfation attends every objedl they prefent to us, and that familiar 
obje6ls feldom raife any emotion pleafant or painful ; we fhall fee 
reafon, befides the agreeable and difagrecable, to admit a third 
clafs of fenfations that may be called indifferent. 

The fenfations that are indifferent, are far from being ufelefs. 
They ferve as figns to diftinguifh things that differ ; and the in- 
formation we have concerning things external, comes by their 
means. Thus, if a man had no ear to receive pleafure from the 
harmony or melody of founds, he would flill find the fenfe of 
hearing of great utility : Though founds give him neither pleafure 
nor pain of themfelves, they would give him much ufeful infor- 
mation ; and the like may be faid of the fenfations we have by all 
the other fenfes. 

As to the fenfations and feelings that are agreeable or difagrec- 
able, they differ much not only in degree, but in kind and in dig- 

232 ESSAY II. 

CHAP.X\y _ nity. Some belong to the animal part of our nature, and are 
common to us with the brutes : Others belong to the rational and 
moral part. The firft are more properly called fenfations^ the laft 
feelings. The French -word fentimeiit is common to both. 

The intention of Nature in them is for the moll: part obvious, 
and well deferving our notice. It has been beautifully illuflrated 
by a very elegant French writer, in his I'heor'ie des fentiments agreables. 

The author of Nature, in the diftribution of agreeable and pain- 
ful feelings, hath wifely and benevolently confulted the good of 
the human fpecies, and hath even Ihown us, by the fame means, 
what tenor of condud we ought to hold. For, firji^ The painful 
fenfations of the animal kind are admonitions to avoid what would 
hurt us ; and the agreeable fenfations of this kind, invite as- to 
thofe adlions that are neceffary to the prefervation of the indivi- 
dual, or of the kind. Secondly^ By the fame means nature invites 
us to moderate bodily exercife, and admonifhes us to avoid idlenefs 
. and ina(5livity on the one hand, and exceflive labour and fatigue 
on the other. 'Thirdly^ The moderate exercife of all our rational 
powers gives pleafure. Fourthly, Every fpecies of beauty is beheld 
with pleafure, and every fpecies of deformity with diiguft ; and 
we fhall find all that we call beautiful, to be fomething eftimable 
or ufeful in itfelf, or a fign of fomething that is eftimable or ufeful. 
Fifthly, The benevolent afFe(5lions are all accompanied with an 
agreeable feeling, the malevolent with the contrary. And, fixthly. 
The higheft, the nobleft, and moft durable pleafure, is that of do- 
ing well, and adling the part that becomes us ; and the moft bitter 
and painful fentiment, the anguifli and remorfe of a guilty con- 
fcience. Thefe obfervations, with regard to the oeconomy of Na- 
ture in the diftribution of our painful and agreeable fenfations and 
feelings, are illuftrated by the author laft mentioned, fo elegantly 
and judicioufly, that I fhall not attempt to fay any thing upon 
them after him. 

I fliall 

O F S E N S A T I O N. 233 

I fhall conclude this chapter by obferving, that as the confound- CHAP, xv i. 
ing our fenfations with that perception of external objedls, which 
is conftantly conjoined with them, has been the occafion of rnoft 
of the errors and falfe theories of Philofophers with regard to the 
fenfes ; fo the diftinguilhing thefe operations feems to rue to be 
the key that leads to a right underftanding of both. 

Senfation, taken by itfelf, implies neither the conception nor 
belief of any external objedl. It fuppofes a fentient being, and a 
certain manner in which that being is affecled, but it fuppofes no 
more. Perception implies an immediate convidlion and belief of 
fomething external ; fomething different both from the mind that 
perceives, and from the a(5l of perception. Things fo different 
in their nature ought to be diflinguilhed ; but by our conftitution 
they are always united. Every different perception is conjoined 
with a fenfation that is proper to it. The one is the lign, the other 
the thing lignified. They coalefce in our imagination. They are 
fignified by one name, and are confidered as one fimple operation. 
The purpofes of life do not require theni to Be diftinguiflied. 

It is the Philofopher alone who has occafion to diflinguifli them, 
when he would analyfe the operation compounded of them. But 
he has no fufpicion that there is any compofition in it ; and to dif- 
cover this requires a degree of refledion which has been too little 
pradlifed even by Philofophers, 

In the old philofophy, fenfation and perception were perfedily 
confounded. The fenfible fpecies coming from the object, and 
impreffed upon the mind, was the whole ; and you might call it 
fenfation or perception as you pleafed. 

Des Cartes and Locke, attending more to the operations of 
their own minds, fay. That the fenfations by which we have no- 
tice of fecondary qualities, have no refemblance to any thing that 
pertains to body j but they did not fee that this might with equal 

G g juftice 

334 E S S A Y II. 

CHAP, XVI. juflice be applied to the primary qualities. Mr Locke maintains, 
that the fenfations we have from primary qualities are refemblances 
of thofe qualities. This Ihows how grofsly the mofl ingenious 
meji may err with regard to the operations of their minds. It 
mufl; indeed be acknowledged, that it is much eafier to have a di- 
ftindl notion of the fenfations that belong to fecondary, than of 
thofe that belong to the primary qualities. The reafon of this will 
appear in the next chapter. 

But had Mr Locke attended with fufficlent accuracy to the fen- 
fations which he was every day and every hour receiving from 
primary qualities, he would have feen that they can as little re- 
ferable any quality of an inanimated being, as pain can referable 
a cube or a circle. 

"What had efcaped this ingenious Philofopher, was clearly dif- 
earned by Bifliop Berkeley. He had a juft notion of fenfations, 
and faw that it was impoffible that any thing in an infentient be- 
ing could referable them ; a thing fo evident in itfclf, that it feems 
wonderful that it fhould have been fo long unknown. 

But let us attend to the confequence of this difcovery. Philo- 
fophers, as well as the vulgar, had been accuftomed to comprehend 
both fenfation and perception under one name, and to confider 
them as one uncompounded operation. Philofophers, even more 
than the vulgar, gave the name of fenfation to the whole operation 
of the fenfes ; and all the notions we have of material things were 
called ideas of fenfation. This led Billiop Berkeley to take one 
ingredient of a complex operation for the whole ; and having 
clearly difcovered the nature of fenfation, taking it for granted 
that all that the fenfes prefent to the mind is fenfation, which can 
have no refemblance to any thing material, he concluded that 
there is no material world. 

If the fenfes furnifhed us with no materials of thought but fen- 


fatlons, his conclufion muft be juft ; for no fenfation can give us C HAP . xvi i. 
the conception of material things, far lefs any argument to prove 
their exiflence. But if it is true that by our fenfes we have not 
only a variety of fenfations, but likewife a conception, and an 
immediate natural conviclion of external objects, he reafons from 
a falfe fuppofition, and his arguments fall to the ground. 

Of the Obje&s of Perception ; andfrjl^ Of primary andfecondary S^alit'ies. 

THE objedls of perception are the various qualities of bodies. 
Intending to treat of thefe only in general, and chiefly vpith 
a view to explain the notions which our fenfes give us of them, 
I begin with the di(lin<5lion between primary and fecondary qua- 
lities. Thefe were diflinguilhed very early. The Peripatetic fyftem 
confounded them, and left no difference. The diftindlion was 
again revived by Des Cartes and Locke, and a fecond time 
aboliflied by Berkeley and Hume. If the real foundation of this 
diftindlion can be pointed out, it will enable us to account for the 
various revolutions in the fentiments of Philofophers concerning it. 

Every one knows that extenfion, divifibility, figure, motion, fo- 
lidity, hardnefs, foftnefs, and fluidity, were by Mr Locke called 
primary qualities of body ; and that found, colour, tafte, fniell, and 
heat or cold, were z^Wtdi fecondary qualities. Is there a juft founda- 
tion for this diftindlion ? Is there any thing common to the pri- 
mary which belongs not to the fecondary ? And what is it ? 

I anfwer. That there appears to me to be a real foundation for 
the diftindlion ; and it is this : That our fenfes give us a diredl 
and a diftindl notion of the primary qualities, and inform us what 
they are in themfelves : But of the fecondary qualities, our fenfes 

G g 2 give 


CHAP. XVII. give us only a relative and obfcure notion. They inform us only, 
that they are qualities that affe<5l us in a certain manner, that is, 
produce in us a certain fenfation ; but as to what they are in them- 
felves, our fenfes leave us in the dark- 

Every man capable of refledlion may eafily fatisfy himfelf, that 
he has a perfedly clear and diftincft notion of extenfion, divifibility, 
figure, and motion. The folidity of a body means no more, but 
that it excludes other bodies from occupying the fame place at the 
fame time. Hardnefs, foftnefs, and fluidity, are different degrees 
of cohefion in the parts of a body. It is fluid, when it has no 
fenfible cohefion ; foft when the cohefion is weak ; and hard when 
it is ftrong : Of the caufe of this cohefion we are ignorant, but the 
thing itfelf we underfland perfe<5lly, being immediately informed 
of it by the fenfe of touch. It is evident, therefore, that of the 
primary qualities we have a clear and diftin(5l notion ; we know 
what they are, though we may be ignorant of their caufes. 

I obferved farther, that the notion we have of primary qualities 
is direcfl, and not relative only. A relative notion of a thing, is, 
ftridlly fpeaking, no notion of the thing at all., but only of fome 
relation which it bears to fomething elfe. 

Thus gravity fometimes fignifies the tendency of bodies towards 
the earth ; fometimes it fignifies the caufe of that tendency : When 
it means the firft, I have a diredl and diftindl notion of gravity ; 
I fee it, and feel it, and know perfedly what it is ; but this ten- 
dency muft have a caufe : We give the fame name to the caufe ; 
and that caufe has been an objedl of thought and of fpeculation. 
Now what notion have we of this caufe when we think and reafon 
about it? It is evident, we think of it as an unknown caufe, of a 
known effcjft. This is a relative notion, and it muft be obfcure, 
becaufe it gives us no conception of what the thing is, but of what 
relation it bears to fomething elfe. Every relation which a thing 
unknown bears to fomething that is known, may give a relative 



notion of it; and there are many objeds of thought, and of dif- CHAP.XVir. 

courfe, of which our faculties can give no better than a relative 


Having premifed thefe things to explain what is meant by a re- 
lative notion, it is evident, that our notion of primary qualities is 
not of this kind ; we know what they are, and not barely what 
relation they bear to fomething elfe. 

It is otherwife with fecondary qualities. If you alk me, what 
is that quality or modification in a rofe which I call its fmell, I 
am at a lofs to anfwer diredly. Upon reflexion I find, that I have 
a diflin(5l notion of the fenfation which it produces in my mind. 
But there can be nothing like to this fenfation in the rofe, becaufe 
it is infentient. The quality in the rofe is fomething which occa- 
fions the fenfation in me j but what that fomething is, I know 
not. My fenfes give me no information upon this point. The 
only notion therefore my fenfes give is this, That fmell in the rofe 
is an unknown quality or modificationj which is the caufe or oc- 
cafion of a fenfation which I know well. The relation which this 
unknown quality bears to the fenfation with which nature hath 
connedied it, is all I learn from the fenfe of fmelling ; but this is 
evidently a relative notion. The fame reafoning will apply to 
every fecondary quality. 

Thus I think it appears, that there is a real foundation for the 
diftindtion of primary from fecondary qualities ; and that they are 
diftinguifhed by this, that of the primary we have by our fenfes a 
dire<5l and diftin<5l notion; but of the fecondary only a relative 
notion, which mull, becaufe it is only relative, be obfcure ; they 
are conceived only as the unknown caufcs or occafions of certain 
fenfations with which we are well acquainted. 

The account I have given of this diftiniflion is founded upon 
no hypothefis. Whether our notions of primary qualities are diredl 


238 ESSAY II. 

CHAP. XVII. and dlftin(fl, thofe of the fecondary relative and obfcure, is a mat- 
ter of fadl, of which every man may have certain knovpledge by 
attentive reflection upon them. To this reflecflion 1 appeal, as the 
proper teft of what has been advanced, and proceed to make fome 
refle<5lions on this fubjedt. 

1. The primary qualities are neither fenfations, nor are they re- 
femblances of fenfations. This appears to me felf-evident. I have 
a clear and diftindl notion of each of the primary qualities. I have 
a clear and diftin(5l notion of fenfation. I can compare the one 
with the other ; and when I do fo, I am not able to difcern a re- 
fembling feature. Senfation is the adl, or the feeling, (I difpute not 
which) of a fentient being. Figure, divifibility, folidity, are nei- 
ther a«5ls nor feelings. Senfation fuppofes a fentient being as its 
fubjecH: ; for a fenfation that is not felt by fome fentient being, is 
an abfurdity. Figure and divifibility fuppofes a fubjecfl that is 
figured and divifible, but not a fubjedl that is fentient. 

2. We have no reafoh to think that any of the fecondary qua- 
lities refemble any fenfation. The abfurdity of this notion has 

.been clearly fliown by Des Cartes, Locke, and many modern 
Philofophers. It was a tenet of the ancient philofophy, and is 
flill by many imputed to the vulgar, but only as a vulgar error. 
It is too evident to need proof, that the vibrations of a founding 
body do not refemble the fenfation of found, nor the effluvia of 
an odorous body the fenfation of fmell. 

3. The diftin{n:nefs of our notions of primary qualities prevents 
all queftions and difputes about their nature. There are no diffe- 
rent opinions about the nature of extenfion, figure, or motion, or 
the nature of any primary quality. Their nature is manifeft to 
our fenfes, and cannot be unknown to any man, or miflaken by 
him, though their caufes may admit of dilpute. 

The primary qualities are the objecl of the mathematical fci- 

ences ; 


ences : and the diftindlnefs of our notions of them enables us to CHAP. xvii. 
reafon demonftratively about them to a great extent. Their va- 
rious' modifications are precifely defined in the imagination, and 
thereby capable of being compared, and their relations determi- 
ned with precifion and certainty. 

It is not fo with fecondary qualities. Their nature not being 
manifeft to the fenfe, may be a fubje(5t of difpute. Our feeling 
informs us that the fire is hot ; but it does not inform us what 
that heat of the fire is. But does it not appear a contradidion, 
to fay we know tl;^at the fire is hot, but we know not what that 
heat is ? I anfwer. There is the fame appearance of contradi(5lion 
in many things, that muft be granted. We know that wine has 
an inebriating quality ; but we know not what that quality is. 
It is true, indeed, that if we had not fome notion of what is 
meant by the heat of fire, and by an inebriating quality, we could 
affirm nothing of either with underftanding. We have a notion 
of both ; but it is only a relative notion. We know that they 
are the caufes of certain known effedls. 

■i'fjod' 3»l! 

4. The nature of fecondary qualities is a proper fubjecfl: of ^hy 
lofophical difquifition ; and in this philofophy has made fome 
progrefs. It has been difcovered, that the fenfation of fmell is 
occafioned by the effluvia of bodies ; that of found by their vi- 
bration. The difpofition of bodies to refle(^ a particular kind of 
light occafions the fenfation of colour. Very curious difcoveries 

have been made of the nature of heat, and an ample field of dif- s 

covery in thefe fubjeds remains. 

5. We may fee why the fenfations belonging. to fecondary qua- 
lities are an objecfl of our attention, while thofe which belong to 
the primary are not. 

The firll are not only figns of the obje<5l perceived, but they bear 
a capital part in the notion we form of it. We conceive it only as 


240 £ S S A Y II. 

CHAP. XVII tiiat which occafions fuch a fenfatlon, and therefore cannot refledl 
upon it without thinking of the fenfation which it occafions : We 
have no other mark whereby to diftinguifli it. The thought of a 
fecondary quaUty, therefore, always carries us back to the fenfation 
which it produces. We give the fame name to both, and are apt 
to confound them together. 

But having a clear and diftindl conception of primary qualities, 
we have no need when we think of them to recal their fenfations. 
When a primary quality is perceived, the fenfation immediately 
leads our thought to the quality fignified by it, and is itfelf forgot. 
We have no occafion afterwards to refledl uplon it; and fo wc 
come to be as little acquainted with it, as if we had never felt it. 
This is the cafe with the fenfations of all primary qualities, when 
they are not fo painful or pleafant as to draw our attention. 

When a man moves his hand rudely againft a pointed hard 
body, he feels pain, and may eafily be perfuaded that this pain is 
a fenfation, and that there is nothing refembling it in the hard 
body; at the fame time he perceives the body to be hard and 
pointed, and he knows that thefe qualities belong to the body on- 
ly. In this cafe, it is eafy to diftinguifli what he feels from what 
he perceives. 

Let him again touch the pointed body gently, fo as to give him 
no pain ; and now you can hardly perfuade him that he feels any 
thing but the figure and hardnefs of the body ; fo difficult it is to 
attend to the fenfations belonging to primary qualities, when they 
are neither pleafant nor painful. They carry the thought to the 
external objecfl, and immediately difappear and are forgot. Nature 
intended them only as figns ; and when they have ferved that pur- 
pofe they vanifli. 

We are now to confider the opinions both of the vulgar, and of 
Philofophers upon this fubjedl. As to the former, it is not to be 




txpedted that they fhould make diftindions v/hich have no con- c hap, xvi l. 
nedion with the common affairs of life ; they do not therefore di- 
flinguifli the primary from the fecondary quahties, but fpeak of 
both as being equally qualities of the external objedl. Of the pri- 
mary qualities they have a diflindl notion, as they are immediately 
and diftindlly perceived by the fenfes ; of the fecondary, their no- 
tions, as I apprehend, are confufed and indiftinft, rather than er- 
roneous. A fecondary quality is the unknown caufe or occafion 
of a well known effedl; and the fame name is common to the 
caufe and the effedl. Now, to diftinguilh clearly the different in- 
gredients of a complex notion, and, at the fame time, the different 
meanings of an ambiguous word, is the work of a Philofopher ; 
and is not to be expedled of the vulgar, when their occafions do 
not require it. 

I grant, therefore, that the notion which the vulgar have of fe- 
condary qualities, is indiftinct and inaccurate. But there feems to 
be a contradi(5lion between the vulgar and the Philofopher upon 
this fubjetfl, and each charges the other with a grofs abfurdity. 
The vulgar fay. That fire is hot, and fnow cold, and fugar fweet ; 
and that to deny this is a grofs abfurdity, and contradidls the tefli- 
mony of our fenfes. The Philofopher fays, That heat, and cold, 
and fweetnefs, are nothing but fenfations in our minds ; and it is 
abfurd to conceive, that thefe fenfations are in the fire, or in the 
fnow, or in the fugar. 

I believe this contradi6lion between the vulgar and the Philofo- 
pher is more apparent than real ; and that it is owing to an abufe 
of language on the part of the Philofopher, and to indiflindl no- 
tions on the part of the vulgar. The Philofopher fays, There is no 
heat in the fire, meaning, that the fire has not the fenfation of 
heat. His meaning is juft ; and the vulgar will agree with him, 
as foon as they underfland his meaning : But his language is im- 
proper ; for there is really a quality in the fire, of which the pro- 
per name is heat ; and the name of heat is given to this quality, 

H h both 



CHAP. XVII. both by Philofophers and by the vulgar, much more frequently 
than.. 10 the fenfation of heat. This fpeech of the Philofopher, 
therefore, is meant by him in one fenfe ; it is taken by the vulgar 
in another fenfe. In the fenfe in which they take it, it is indeed 
abfurd, and fo they hold it to be. In the fenfe in which he means 
it, it is true ; and the vulgar, as foon as they are made to under- 
ftand that fenfe, will acknowledge it to be true. They know as 
well as the Philofopher, that the fire does not feel heat ; and this 
is all that he means by faying there is no heat in the fire. 

In the opinions of Philofophers about primary and fecondary 
qualities, there have been, as was before obferved, feveral revolu- 
tions : They were diftinguifhed long before the days of Aristotle, 
by the fed called Atomifts ; among whom Democritus made a 
capital figure. In thofe times, the name of quality was applied only 
to thofe we call fecondary qualities ; the primary being confidered 
as effential to matter, were not called qualities. That the atoms, 
■which they held to be the firft principles of things, were extended, 
folid, figured, and moveable, there was no doubt ; bui* the que- 
ftion was, whether they had fmell, tafle, and colour ? or, as it was 
commonly exprefTed, whether they had qualities ? The Atomifts 
maintained, that they had not ; that the qualities were not in bo- 
dies, but were fomething refuUing from the operation of bodies 
upon our fenfes. 

It w^ould feem, that when men began to fpeculate upon this 
fubjedt, the primary qualities appeared fo clear and manifeft, that 
they could entertain no doubt of their exiftence wherever matter 
exifted ; but the fecondary fo obfcure, that they were at a lofs 
•where to place them. They ufed this companfon ; as fire, which 
is neither in the flint nor in the fteel, is produced by their colli- 
fion, fo thofe qualities, though not in bodies, are produced by their 
impulfe upon our fenfes. 

This do£lrine was oppofed by Aristotle. He believed tafte 



and colour to be fubftantial forms of bodies, and that their fpecies, ^'^aP- X vir. 
as well as thofe of figure and motion, are received by the ferfTes. 

In believing, that what we commonly call tajle and colour^ is 
fomething really inherent in body, and does not depend upon its 
being tafted and feen, he followed nature. But, in believing that 
our fenfations of tafte and colour are the forms or fpecies of thofe 
qualities received by the fenfes, he followed his own theory, which 
was an abfurd fidion. Des Cartes not only Ihowed the abfur- 
dity of fenfible fpecies received by the fenfes, but gave a more juft 
and more intelligible account of fecondary qualities than had been 
given before. Mr Locke followed him, and bellowed much pains 
upon this fubje6l. He was the firft, I think, that gave them the 
name of fecondary qualities, which has been very generally adopt- 
ed. He diftinguifhed the fenfation from the quality in the body, 
which is the caufe or occalion of that fenfation, and (howed that 
there neither is nor can be any fimilitude between them. 

By this account, the fenfes are acquitted of putting any fallacy 
upon us ; the fenfation is real, and no fallacy ; the quality in the 
body, which is the caufe or occafion of this fenfation, is likewife 
real, though the nature of it is not manifeft to our fenfes. If we 
impofe upon ourfelves, by confounding the fenfation with the qua- 
lity that occafions it, this is owing to ralh judgment, or weak uii- 
derftanding, but not to any falfe teftimony of our fenfes. 

This account of fecondary qualities I take to be very juft ; and, 
if Mr Locke had flopped here, he would have left the matter very 
clear. But he thought it necefTary to introduce the theory of ideas, 
to explain the diftindtion between primary and fecondary qualities, 
and by that means, as I think, perplexed and darkened it. 

When Philofophers fpeak about ideas, we are often at a lofs to 
know what they mean by them, and may be ape to fufpedl that 
they are mere fidlions, that have no exiltence. They have told us, 

H h 2 that. 

244 E S S A Y II. 

CHAP. XVII. that by the ideas which we have immediately from pur fenfes, 
"^ thejHinean our fenfations. Thefe, indeed, are real things, and not 

fidions. We may, by accurate attention to them, know perfedly 
their nature ; and if Philofophers would keep by this meaning of 
the word ii/ea, when applied to the objeds of fenfe, they would at 
lead be more intelligible. Let us hear how Mr Locke explains 
the nature of thofe ideas, when applied to primary and fecondary 
qualities, Book 2. chap. 8. fedl. 7. loth edition. " To difcover 
" the nature of our ideas the better, and to difcourfe of them 
" intelligibly, it will be convenient to diftinguifli them, as they 
" are ideas, or perceptions in our minds, and as they are modifi- 
" cations of matter in the bodies that caufe fueli perceptions in us, 
*• that fo we may not think (as perhaps ufually is done), that they 
** are exadlly the images and refemblances of fomething inherent 
" in the fubjedl ; mod of thofe of fenfation being, in the mind, 
" no more the likenefs of fomething exifting without us, than the 
" names that ftand for them are the likenefs of our ideas, which 
" yet, upon hearing, they are apt to excite in us." 


This way of diftinguifliing a thing, ^fr/?, as what it is ; a.nd, Je- 
condly^ as what it is not, is, I apprehend, a very extraordinary way 
of difcovering its nature : And if ideas are ideas or perceptions in 
our minds, and at the fame time the modifications of matter in 
the bodies that caufe fuch perceptions in us, it will be no cafy 
matter to difcourfe of them intelligibly. 

The difcovery of the nature of ideas is carried on in the next fec- 
tion, in a manner no lefs extraordinary. " Whatfoever the mind 
*' perceives in itfelf, or is the immediate objecft of perception, 
" thought, or underftanding, that I call idea; and the power to 
** produce any idea in our mind, I call quality of the fubjedl 
" wherein that power is. Thus a fnowball having the power 
" to produce in us the ideas of white, cold, and round, the powers 
" to produce thofe ideas in us, as they are in the fnowball, I call 
" qualities; and as they are fenfations, or perceptions in our- 

" underflandings, 


" underftandlngs, I call them ideas ; which ideas, if I fpeak of CHAP.XVII. 
" them fometimes as in the things themfelves, I would be under- 
** flood to mean thofe qualities in the objedl* which produce them 
« in us." 

Thefe are the diflinclions which Mr Locke thought convenient, 
in order to difcover the nature of our ideas of the qualities of mat- 
ter the better, and to difcourfe of them intelligibly. I believe it 
will be difficult to find two other paragraphs in the Eflay fo 
unintelligible. Whether this is to be imputed to the intradlable 
nature of ideas, or to an ofcitancy of the author, with which he 
is very rarely chargeable, I leave the reader to judge. There are, 
indeed, feveral other paflages in the fame chapter, in which a like 
obfcurity appears ; but I do not chufe to dwell upon them. The 
conclufion drawn by him from the whole, is, that primary and fe- 
condary qualities are diftinguifhed by this, that the ideas of the 
former are refemblances or copies of them ; but the ideas of the 
other are not refemblances of them. Upon this do(5lrine, I beg 
leave to make two obfervations. 

i^f'r/?, Taking it for granted, that, by the ideas of primary and 
fecondary qualities, he means the fenfations they excite in us, I 
obferve that it appears ftrange, that a fenfation fhould be the idea 
of a quality in body, to which it is acknowledged to bear no re- 
femblance. If the fenfation of found be the idea of that vibra- 
tion of the founding body which occafions it, a furfeit may, for 
the fame reafon, be the idea of a feaft. 

A fecond obfervation is, That, when Mr Locke affirms, that 
the ideas of primary qualities, that is, the fenfations they raife in 
us, are refemblances of thofe qualities, he feems neither to have 
given due attention to thofe fenfations, nor to the nature of fenfa- 
tion in general. 

Let a man prefs his hand againfl a hard body, and let him at- 

246 E S S A Y 11. 

CHAP. XVU, t^nd to the fenlation he feels, excluding from his thought every 
thing external, even the body that is the caufe of his feeling. This 
abftracflion indeed is. difficult, and feems to have been little, if at 
all, praclifed : But it is not impoffible, and it is evidently the on- 
ly way to underftand the nature of the fenfation. A due atten- 
tion to this fenfation will fatisfy him, that it is no more like hard- 
nefs in a body, than the fenfation of found is like vibration in 
the founding body. 

I know of no ideas but my conceptions ; and my idea of hard- 
nefs in a body, is the conception of fuch a cohefion of its parts as 
requires great force to difplace them. I have both the conception 
and belief of this quality in the body, at the fame time that I have 
the fenfation of pain, by preffing my hand againft it. The fenfa- 
tion and perception are clofely conjoined by my conflitution ; but 
I am fure they have no fimilitude : I know no reafon why the one 
fliould be called the idea of the other, which does not lead us to 
call every natural effed the idea of its caufe. 

Neither did Mr Locke give due attention to the nature of fen- 
fation in general, when he affirmed, that the ideas of primary qua- 
lities, that is, the fenfations excited by them, are refemblances of 
thofe qualities. 

That there can be nothing like fenfation in an infentient being, 
or like thought in an unthinking being, is felf-evident, and has 
been ihown, to the convidlion of all men that think, by Bilhop 
Berkeley ; yet this was unknown to Mr Locke. It is an hum- 
bling confideration, that, in fubjeds of this kind, felf-evident 
truths may be hid from the eyes of the moft ingenious men. But 
we have, withal, this confolation, that, when once difcovered, 
they fliine by their own light ; and that light can no more be put 

Upon the whole, Mr Locke, in making fecondary qualities to 



be powers in bodies to excite certain fenfations in us, has given a C HAP. XVI L 
juft and diftin(5l analyfis of what our fenfes dlfcover concerning 
them ; but, in applying the theory of ideas to them, and to the 
primary qualities, he has been led to fay things that darken the 
l"ubje<5l, and that will not bear examination. 

Bifhop Berkeley having adopted the fentiments common to 
Philofophers, concerning the ideas we have by our fenfes, to wit, 
that they are all fenfations, faw more clearly the neceflary confe- 
quence of this dodlrine; which is, that there is no material world; 
no qualities primary or fecondary ; and, confequently, no founda- 
tion for any didiniflion between them. He expofed the abfurdity 
of a refemblance between our fenfations and any quality, primary 
or fecondary, of a fubftance that is fuppofed to be infentient. In- 
deed, if it is granted that the fenfes have no other office but to fur- 
niQi us with fenfations, it will be found impoffible to make any 
diftin<5lion between primary and fecondary qualities, or even to 
maintain the exillence of a material world. 

From the account I have given of the various revolutions in the 
opinions of Philofophers about primary and fecondary qualities, I 
think it appears, that all the darknefs and intricacy that thinking 
men have found in this fubjedl, and the errors they have fallen 
into, have been owing to the difficulty of diftinguilhing clearly 
fenfation from perception ; what we feel from what we perceive. 

The external fenfes have a double province ; to make us feel, 
and to make us perceive. They furnifh us with a variety of fen- 
fations, fome pleafant, others painful, and others indifferent ; at 
the fame time they give us a conception, and an invincible belief 
of the exiftcnce of external objeifls. This conception of external 
obje(5ls is the work of Nature. The belief of their exiftence, which 
our fenfes give, is the work of Nature ; fo likewife is the fenfation 
that accompanies it. This conception and belief which Nature 
produces by means of the fenfes, we call perception. The feeling 


248 ESSAY ir. 

CHAP. XVII. ^vhich goes along with the perception, we c&W fenfation. The per- 
ception and its correfponding feniiition are produced at the fame 
time. In our experience we never find them disjoined. Hence we 
are led to confider them as one thing, to give them one name, and 
to confound their different attributes. It becomes very difEcuIt to 
feparate them in thought, to attend to each by itfelf, and to attri- 
bute nothing to it which belongs to the other. 

To do this requires a degree of attention to what pafTes in our 
own minds, and a talent of diftinguifhing things that differ, which 
is not to be expe(5led in the vulgar, and is even rarely found in 
Philofophers ; fo that the progrefs made in a juft analyfis of the 
operations of our fenfes has been very flow. The hypothelis of 
ideas, fo generally adopted, hath, as I apprehend, greatly retarded 
this progrefs, and we might hope for a quicker advance, if Philo- 
fophers could fo far humble themfelves as to believe, that in every 
branch of the philofophy of Nature, the produ<5lions of human 
fancy and conjedlure will be found to be drofs ; and that the only 
pure metal that will endure the teft, is what is difcovered by pa- 
tient obfervation, and chafte indudion. 


Of other Objects of Perception. 

BESIDES primary and fecondary qualities of bodies, there are 
many other immediate objects of perception. Without pre- 
tending to a complete enumeration, I think they moftly fall under 
one or other of the following clafTes. i/?, Certain ftates or con- 
ditions of our own bodies. 2<y, Mechanical powers or forces. 
3^, Chemical powers. 4//^, Medical powers or virtues. 5/^, Ve- 
getable and animal powers. 



That we perceive certain cliforders in our own bodies by means C HAF . XVI IL 
of uneafy fenfations, which Nature hath conjoined with them, 
will not be difputed. Of this kind are toothach, headach, gout, 
and every diftemper and hurt which we feel. The notions which 
our fenfe gives of thefe, have a ftrong analogy to our notions of fe- 
condary qualities. Both are fimilarly compounded, and may be 
fimilarly refolved, and they give light to each other. 

In the toothach, for in fiance, there is, firjl^ a painful feeling ; 
and, fecondly^ a conception and belief of fome diforder in the 
tooth, which is believed to be the caufe of the uneafy feeling. 
The firft of thefe is a fenfation, the fecond is perception ; for it 
include* a conception and belief of an external objedl. But thefe 
two things, though of different natures, are fo conftantly conjoin- 
ed in our experience, and in our imagination, that we confider 
them as one. We give the fame name to both ; for the toothach 
is the proper name of the pain we feel ; and it is the proper name 
of the diforder in the tooth which caufes that pain. If it fliould 
be made a queftion, whether the toothach be in the mind that 
feels it, or in the tooth that is affejfled ? much might be faid on 
both fides, while, it is not obferved that the word has two mean- 
ings. But a little refledlion fatisfies us, that the pain is in the 
mind, and the diforder in the tooth. If fome Philofopher fhould 
pretend to have made a difcovery, that the toothach, the gout, 
the headach, are only fenfations in the mind, and that it is a vul- 
gar error to conceive that they are diftempers of the body, he 
might defend his fyftem in the fame manner as thofe, w^ho affirm 
that there is no found nor colour nor tafte in bodies, defend that 
paradox. But both thefe fyftems, like moll paradoxes, will be found 
to be only an abufe of words. 

We fay that we feel the toothach, not that we perceive it. On 
the other hand, we fay that we perceive the colour of a body, 
not that we feel it. Can any reafon be given for this difference of 

I i phrafeology? 



CHAP.XViu. phrafeology ? In anfwer to this queftion, I apprehend, that both 
when we feel the toothach, and when we fee a coloured body, there 
is fenfation and perception conjoined. But, in the toothach, the 
fenfation being very painful, engrofles the attention ; and therefore 
we fpeak of it, as if it were felt only, and not perceived : Whereas, 
in feeing a coloured body, the fenfation is indifferent, and draws net 
attention. The quality in the body, which we call its colour, is the 
only object of attention j and therefore we fpeak of it, as if it were 
perceived, and not felt. Though all Philofophers agree that in 
feeing colour there is fenfation, it is not eafy to perfuade the vulgar, 
that, in feeing a coloured body, when the light is not too ftrong, 
nor the eye inflamed, they have any fenfation or feeling at all. 

There are fome fenfations, which, though they are very often 
felt, are never attended to, nor reflected upon. We have no con- 
ception of them ; and therefore, in language, there is neither any 
name for them, nor any form of fpeech that fuppofes their exifl- 
ence. Such are the fenfations of colour, and of all primary qua- 
lities ; and therefore thofe qualities are faid to be perceived, but 
not to be felt. Taft;e and fmell, and heat and cold, have fenfa- 
tions that are often agreeable or difagreeable, in fuch a degree as 
to draw our attention ; and they are fometimes faid to be felt, and 
fometimes to be perceived. When diforders of the body occafion 
very acute pain, the uneafy fenfation engrofles the attention, and 
they are faid to be felt, not to be perceived. 

There is another queftion relating to phrafeology, which this 
fubjedl fuggefts. A man fays, he feels pain in fuch a particular 
part of his body ; in his toe, for infl:ance. Now, reafoa affures 
us, that pain being a fenfation, can only be in the fentient being, 
as its fubje(5l, that is, in the mind. And though Philofophers 
have difputed much about the place of the mind ; yet none 
of them ever placed it in the toe. What fliall we fay then 
in this cafe? do our fenfes really deceive us, and make us be- 
lieve a thing which our reafon determines to be impoflible ? I 



anfwer, yjyy?, That, when a man fays he has pain in his toe, he is CHAP.XVIII. 

perfe<5lly underftood, both by himfelf, and thofe who hear him. 

This is all that he intends. He really feels what he and all men 

call a pain in the toe ; and there is no deception in the matter. 

Whether therefore there be any impropriety in the phrafe or not, 

is of no confequence in common life. It anfwers all the ends of 

Ipeech, both to the fpeaker and the hearers. 

In all languages, there are phrafes which have a diftindl mean- 
ing ; while, at the fame time, there may be fomething in the ftruc- 
ture of them that difagrees with the analogy of grammar, or with 
the principles of philofophy. And the reafon is, becaufe language 
is not made either by Grammarians or Philofophers. Thus we 
fpeak of feeling pain, as if pain was fomething diftincft from the 
feeling of it. We fpeak of a pain coming and going, and remo- 
ving from one place to another. Such phrafes are meant by thofe 
who ufe them in a fenie that is neither obfcure nor falfe. But the 
Philofopher puts them into his alembic, reduces them to their firfl 
principles, draws out of them a fenfe that was never meant, and 
fo imagines that he has difcovered an error of the vulgar. 

-i lo IJEii 9fi xioij<. 
I obferve, /efondlyy That, when we confider the fenfatlon of pain 
by itfelf, without any refped to its caufe, we cannot fay with 
propriety, that the toe is either the place, or the fubjedl of it. But 
it ought to be remembered, that when we fpeak of pain in the 
toe, the fenfatio.n is combined in our thought, with the caufe of 
i,t, which, really is in the toe. The caufe and the effedl are com- 
bined in one complex notion, and the fame name ferves for both. 
It is the bufinefs of the Philofopher to analyfe this complex 
notion, and to give different names to its different ingredients. 
He gives the name of pain to the fenfation only, and the name of 
dtjorder to the unknown caufe of it. Then ic is evident that the 
diforder only is in the toe, and that it would be an error to think 
that the pain is in it. But we ought not to afcribe this error to the 

I i 2 vulgar, 

252 ESSAY ir. 

C HAP.Xvn i. vulgar, who never made the difl:in<5tion, and who under the name 
of pain comprehend both the fenfation and its caufe. 

Cafes fometimes happen, which give occafion even to the vulgar 
to diftinguifh the painful fenfation from the diforder which is the 
caufe of it. A man who has had his leg cut off, many years after 
feels pain in a toe of that leg. The toe has now no exigence; 
and he perceives eafily, that the toe can neither be the place, nor 
the fubjeil of the pain which he feels ; yet it is the fame feeling 
he ufed to have from a hurt in the toe ; and if he did not know 
that his leg was cut off, it would give him the fame immediate 
conviction of fome hurt or dilbrder in thq toe. ■ ; 

The fame phacnomenon may lead the Philofopher, in all cafes, to 
diftinguifh fenfation from perception. We fay, that the man had 
a deceitful feeling, when he felt a pain in his toe after the leg was 
cut off; and we have a true meaning in faying fo. But, if we 
will fpeak accurately, our fenfations cannot be deceitful ; they mufl 
be what we feel them to be, and can be nothing elfe. Where 
then lies the deceit ? I anfwer, it lies not in the fenfation, which 
is real, but in the feeming perception he had of a diforder in his 
toe. This perception, which Nature had conjoined with the fen- 
I'ation, was in this inftance fallacious. 

The fame reafoning may be applied to every phaenomenon that 
can, with propriety, be called a deception of fenfe. As when one, 
who has the jaundice, fees a body yellow, which is really white ; 
or when a man fees an objedl double, becaufe his eyes are not both 
dire<fted to it; in thefe, and other like cafes, the fenfations we 
have are real, and the deception is only in the perception which 
Nature has annexed to them. 

Nature has connected our perception of external objedls with 
certain fenfations. If the fenfation is produced, the correfpond- 
ing perception follows even when there is no objetSt, and in that 



cafe is apt to deceive us. In like manner, Nature has connedled C HAP , xviii. 
our fenfations with certain impreflions that are made upon the 
nerves and brain : And, when the impreffion is made, from what- 
ever caufe, the correfponding fenfation and perception immediately 
follows. Thus, in the man who feels pain in his toe after the leg 
is cut off, the nerve that went to the toe, part of which was cut 
off with the leg, had the fame impreffion made upon the remain- 
ing part, which, in the natural ftate of his body, was caufed by 
a hurt in the toe : And immediately this impreffion is followed by 
the fenfation and perception which Nature conneded with it. 

In like manner, if the fame impreffions, which are made at 
prefent upon my optic nerves by the objeds before me, could be 
made in the dark, I apprehend that I Ihould have the fame fenfa- 
tions, and fee the fame objedls which I now fee. The impreffions 
and fenfations would in fuch a cafe be real, and the perception on- 
ly fallacious. 

Let us next confider the notions which our fenfes give us of 
thofe attributes of bodies called powers. This is the more neceffa- 
ry, becaufe power feems to imply fome a<5livity ; yet we confider 
body as a dead inadlive thing, which does not adl, but may be 
a(5ted upon. 

Of the mechanical powers afcribed to bodies, that which is call- 
ed their vis injita, or inertia, may firft be confidered. By this is 
meant, no more than that bodies never change their ftate of them- 
felves, either from reft to motion, or from motion to reft, or from 
one degree of velocity, or one diredlion to another. In order to 
produce any fuch change, there muft be fome force impreffed up- 
on them ; and the change produced is precifely proportioned to 
the force impreffed, and in the direction of that force. 

That all bodies have this property, is a matter of facfl, which 
we learn ixova. daily obfervation, as well as from the moft 


254 E S S A Y II. 


C HAP. XVI II- accurate experiments. Now it feems plain, that this does not im- 
ply any atftivity in body, but rather the contrary. A power in 
body to change its ftate, would much rather imply adlivity than its 
continuing in the fame ftate: So that, although this property of 
bodies is called theii- vis InfUa^ or vis inertia^ it implies no proper 

If we confider, next, the power of gravity, it is a fa<5l, that all 
the bodies of our planetary fyftem gravitate towards each other. 
This has been fully proved by the great Newton. But this gra- 
vitation is not conceived by that Philofopher to be a power inhe- 
. rent in bodies, which they exert of themfelves, but a force im- 
preiTed upon them, to which they muft neceflarily yield. Whe- 
ther this force be imprefTed by fome fubtile asther, or whether it 
be imprefTed by the power of the Supreme Being, or of fome 
fubordinate fpiritual being, we do not know ; but all found natu- 
ral philofophy, particularly that of Newton, fuppofes it to be an 
imprefTed force, and not inherent in bodies. 

So that, when bodies gravitate, they do not properly acSl, but 
are adled upon : They only yield to an impreflion that is made up- 
on them. It is common in language to exprefs, by adlive verbs, 
many changes in things, wherein they are merely paflive : And 
this way of fpeaking is ufed chiefly when the caufe of the change 
is not obvious to fenfe. Thus we fay that a fhip fails, when eve- 
ry man of common fenfe knows that fhe has no inherent power 
of motion, and is only driven by wind and tide. In like manner, 
when we fay that the planets gravitate towards the fun, we mean 
no more, but that, by fome unknown power, they are drawn or 
impelled in that diredlion. 

What has been faid of the power of gravitation may be applied 
to other mechanical powers, fuch as cohefion, magnetifm, elcdtri- 
city ; and no lefs to chemical and medical powers. By all thefe, 
certain efTecfts are produced, upon the application of one body to 



another. Our fenfes difcover the efFed ; but the power is latent. C HAP . XVI II- 
We know there mufl be a caufe of the effed, and we form a rela- 
tive notion of it from its effedl ; and very often the fame name is 
ufed to fignify the unknown caufe, and the known efFedl. 

We afcribe to vegetables, the powers of drawing noutifhment, 
growing and multiplying their kind. Here likewife the effe<5t is 
manifeft, but the caufe is latent to fenfe. Thefe powers, therefore, 
as well as all the other powers we afcribe to bodies, are unknown 
caufes of certain known effe(fts. It is the bufinefs of philofophy 
to inveftigate the nature of thofe powers as far as we are able, but 
■ our fenfes leave us in the dark. 

We may obferve a great fimilarity in the notions which our 
fenfes give us of fecondary qualities, of the diforders we feel in 
our own bodies, and of the various powers of bodies which we 
have enumerated. They are all obfcure and relative notions, be- 
ing a conception of fome unknown caufe of a known efFedt. Their 
names are, for the mod part, common to the effedl, and to its 
caufe ; and they are a proper fubje<5l of philofophical difquifition. 
They might therefore, I think, not improperly, be called occult 

This name indeed is fallen into dlfgrace flnce the time of Des 
Cartes. It is faid to have been ufed by the Peripatetics to cloke . 
their ignorance, and to flop all enquiry into the nature of thofe 
qualities called occult. Be it fo. Let thofe anfwer for this abufe 
of the word who were guilty of it. To call a thing occult, if we 
attend to the meaning of the word, is rather modeflly to confefs 
ignorance, than to cloke it. It is to point it out as a proper fubje(5l 
for the inveftigation of Philofophers, whofe proper bufinefs it is to 
better the condition of humanity, by difcovering what was before 
hid from human knowledge. 


256 E S S A Y II. 


> ' 

Were I therefore to make a divifion of the qualities of bodies as 
they appear to our fenfes, I would divide them firfl: into thofe that 
are tnantfeji, and thofe that are occult. Tl\e manifeft qualities are 
thofe which Mr Locke calls primary; fuch as extenfion, figure, 
divifibility, motion, hardnefs, foftnefs, fluidity. The nature of 
thefe is manifeft even to fenfe ; and the bufinefs of the Philofopher 
with regard to them, is not to find out their nature, which is well 
known, but to difcover the effedls produced by their various com- 
binations ; and with regard to thofe of them which are not eflential 
to matter, to difcover their caufes as far as he is able. 

The fecond clafs confifts of occult qualities, which may be fub- 
divided into various kinds ; as Jirjl^ the fecondary qualities ; fe- 
condly^ the diforders we feel in our own bodies ; and, thirdly^ all 
the qualities which we call powers of bodies, whether mechanical, 
chemical, medical, animal or vegetable ; or if there be any other 
powers not comprehended under thefe heads. Of all thefe the 
exiftence is manifeft to fenfe, but the nature is occult ; and here 
the Philofopher has an ample field. 

What is neceflary for the conducSl of our animal life, the boun- 
tiful Author of Nature hath made manifeft to all men. But there 
are many other choice fecrets of Nature, the difcovery of which 
enlarges the power, and exalts the ftate of man. Thel'e are left to be 
difcovered by the proper ufe of our rational powers. They are hid, 
not that they may be always concealed from human knowledge, 
but that we may be excited to fearch for them. This is the pro- 
per bufinefs of a Philofopher, and it is the glory of a man, and 
the beft reward of his labour, to difcover what Nature has thus 



Of Matter and of Space. 

THE objeds of fenfe we have hitherto confidered are qualities. 
But qualities muft have a fubjedl. We give the names of 
matter .^ material fubjlance^ and hody^ to the fubjeft of fenfible qua- 
lities ; and it may be afked, what this matter is ? 

I perceive in a billiard ball, figure, colour, and motion ; but the 
ball is not figure, nor is it colour, nor motion, nor all thefe taken 
together ; it is fomething that has figure, and colour, and motion. 
This is a didate of Nature, and the belief of all mankind. 

As to the nature of this fomething, I am afraid we can give little 
account of it, but that it has the qualities which our fenfes difcover. 

But how do we know that they are qualities, and cannot exift 
without a fubjedt ? I confefs I cannot explain how we know that 
they cannot exift without a fubjedl, any more than I can explain 
how we know that they exift. We have the information of nature 
for their exiftence ; and I think we have the information of nature 
that they are qualities. 

The belief that figure, motion, and colour, are qualities, and re- 
quire a fubjed, muft either be a judgment of nature, or it muft 
be difcovered by reafon, or it muft be a prejudice that has no juft 
foundation. There are Philofophers who maintain, that it is a mere 
prejudice j that a body is nothing but a coUedlion of what we call 
fenfible qualities ; and that they neither have nor need any fubjeifV. 
This is the opinion of Biftaop Berkeley and Mr Hume ; and they 
were led to it by finding, that they had not in their minds any 

K k idea 

258 E S S A Y ir. 

CHAP.XIX- idea of fubftance. It could neither be an idea of fenfation nor of 

But to me nothing feems more abfurd, than that there Ihould be 
excenfion without any thing extended ; or motion without any- 
thing moved; yet I cannot give reafons for my opinion, becaufe it 
feems to me felf-evident, and an immediate didlate of my nature. 

And that it is the belief of all mankind, appears in the fl:ru(5lure 
of all languages ; in which we find adje(£live nouns ufed to exprefs 
fenfible qualities. It is well known that every adjedive in lan- 
guage muft belong to fome fubftantive exprefTed or underflood; 
that is, every quality muft belong to fome fubjedl. 

Senfible qualities make fo great a part of the furniture .of our 
minds, their kinds are fo many, and their number fo great, that 
if prejudice, and not nature, teach us to afcribe them all to a fub- 
jedt, it muft have a great work to perform, which cannot be ac- 
complifhed in a fhort time, nor carried on to the fame pitch in 
every individual. We ftiould find not individuals only, but nations 
and ages, differing from each other in the progrefs which this 
prejudice had made in their fentiments ; but we find no fuch dif- 
ference among men. Wliat one man accounts a quality, all men 
do, and ever did. 

It feems therefore to be a judgment of nature, that the things 
immediately perceived are qualities, which muft belong to a fub- 
je(5l ; and all the information that our fenfes give us about this 
fubje6l, is, that it is that to which fuch qualities belong. From this 
it is evident, that our notion of body or matter, as diftinguifhed 
from its qualities, is a relative notion ; and I am afraid it muft 
always be obfcure until men have other faculties. 

The Philofopher in this feems to have no advantage above the 
Tulgar ; for as they perceive colour, and figure, and motion by 



their fenfes as well as he does, and both are equally certain that CHAP .XIX . 

there is a fubjedl of thofe qualities, fo the notions which both have 

of this fubje<5l are equally obfcure. When the Philofopher calls it 

2i fuhjlratum^ and a fubjedl of inhefion, thofe learned words convey 

no meaning but what every man underflands and exprefles, by 

faying in common language, that it is a thing extended, and folid, 

and moveable. ^ 

The relation which fenfible qualities bear to their fubjedl, that 
is, to body, is not, however, fo dark, but that it is eafily diftin- 
guilhed from all other relations. Every man can diftinguilli it 
from the relation of an effedl to its caufe; of a mean to its end; or 
of a fign to the thing fignified by it. 

I think it requires fome ripenefs of underflanding to diftinguifh 
the qualities of a body from the body. Perhaps this diftindion is 
not made by brutes, nor by infants ; and if any one thinks that 
this diftindion is not made by our fenfes, but by fome other power 
of the mind, I will not difpute this point, provided it be granted, 
that men, when their faculties are ripe, have a natural convi<5lion, 
that fenfible qualities cannot exift by themfelves without fome 
fubjecl to which they belong. 

I think, indeed, that fome of the determinations we form con- 
cerning matter cannot be deduced folely from the teftimony of 
fenfe, but mufl be referred to fome other fource. 

There feems to be nothing more evident, than that all bodies 
mufl confifl of parts ; and that every part of a body is a body, and 
a diflindl being which may exifl without the other parts ; and yet 
I apprehend this conclufion is not deduced folely from the tefli- 
mony of fenfe ; For, beGdes that it is a neceffary truth, and there- 
fore no objedl of fenfe, there is a limit beyond which we cannot 
perceive any divifion of a body. The parts become too fmall to 
be perceived by our fenfes j but we cannot believe that it becomes 

K k 2 then 

26a ESSAY It, 

CHA P. XIX . then incapable of being farther divided, or that fuch dlvifion would 
make it not to be a body. 

We carry on the divifion and fubdivifion in our thought far be- 
yond the reach of our fenles, and we can find no end to it : Nay, 
I think we plainly difcern, that there can be no limit beyond which 
the divifion cannot be carried. 

For if there be any limit to this divifion, one of two things niud 
neceilarily happen. Either we have come by divifion to a body 
which is extended, but has no parts, and is abfolutely indivifible; 
or this botiy is divifible, but as foon as it is divided, it becomes 
no body. Both thefe pofitions feem to me abfurd, and one or the 
other is the neceffary confequencc of fuppofing a limit to the divi- 
fibility o:f matter. 

On the other hand, if it is admitted that the divifibility of matter 
has no limit, it will follow, that no body can be called one indivi- 
dual fubftance. You may as well call it two, or twenty, or two 
hundred. For when it is divided into parts, every part is a being 
or fubftance diftincl from all the other parts, and was fo even be- 
fore the divifion : Any one part may continue to exift, though all 
the other parts were annihilated. 

There is, indeed, a principle long received, as an axiom in me- 
taphyfics, which I cannot reconcile to the divifibility of matter. 
It is, That every being is one, omne ens ejl unum. By which, I fup- 
pofe, is meant, that every thing that exifts mud either be one in- 
divifible being, or compofed of a determinate number of indivi- 
fible beings. Thus an army may be divided into regiments, a re- 
giment into companies, and a company into men. But here the 
divifion has its limit ; for you cannot divide a man without deftroy- 
ing him, becaufe he is an individual ; and every thing, according 
to this axiom, muft be an individual, or made up of individuals. 



That this axiom will hold with regard to an army, and with re- C HAP.XIX . 
gard to maAy other things, muft be granted : But I require the 
evidence- of its being applicable to all beings whatfoever. 

Leibnitz, conceiving that all beings mud have this metaphy- 
fical unity, was by this led to maintain, that matter, and indeed 
the whole univerfe, is made up of monades, that is, fimple and 
indivifible fubftances. 

Perhaps the fame apprehenfion might lead Boscovick into his 
hypothefis, which feems much more ingenious ; to wit, that mat- 
ter is compofed of a definite number of mathematical points, en- 
dowed with certain powers of attradlion and repulfion. 

The divifibility of matter without any limit, feems to me more 
tenable than either of thefe hypothefes j nor do I lay much ftrefs 
upon the metaphyfical axiom, confidering its origin. Metaphyfi- 
cians thought proper to make the attributes common to all beings 
the fubjecfl of a fcience. It mufl be a matter of fome difficulty to 
find out fuch attributes : And, after racking their invention, they 
have fpecified three, to wit, unity, verity, and goodnefs ; and thefe, 
I fuppofe, have been invented to make a number, rather than from 
any clear evidence of their being univerfal. 

There are other determinations concerning matter, which, I 
think, are not folely founded upon the teftimony of fenfe : Such 
as, that it is impoffible that two bodies (liould occupy the fame 
place at the fame time ; or that the fame body Ihould be in diffe- 
rent places at the fame time ; or that a body can be moved from 
one place to another, without pafling through the intermediate 
places, either in a ftraight courfe, or by fome circuit. Thefe appear 
to be necefTary truths, and therefore cannot be conclufions of our 
fenfes ; for our fenfes teftify only what is, and not what mufl ne- 
ceffarily be. 


262 E S S A Y II. 

CHAP.Xix^ We ars next to confider our notion of fpace. It may be obfer- 
Tcd, that although fpace be not perceived by any of our fenfes 
when all matter is removed ; yet, when we perceive any of the 
primary qualities, fpace prefents itfelf as a necelFary concomitant : 
For there can neither be extenfion, nor motion, nor figure, nor 
divifion, nor cohefion of parts without fpace. 

There are only two of our fenfes by which the notion of fpace 
enters into the mind ; to wit, touch and fight. If we fuppofe a 
man to have neither of thefe fenfes, I do not fee how he could 
ever have any conception of fpace. Suppofmg him to have both, 
until he fees or feels other objeds, he can have no notion of fpace : 
It has neither colour nor figure to make it an objed of fight : It 
has no tangible quality to make it an objedl of touch. But other 
objedls of fight and touch carry the notion of fpace along with 
them ; and not the notion only, bvit the belief of it : For a body 
could not exifl if there was no fpace to contain it : It could not 
move if there was no fpace : Its fituation, its diftance, and every 
relation it has to other bodies, fuppofe fpace. 

But though the notion of fpace feems not to enter at firft into 
the mind, until it is introduced by the proper objeds of fenfe ; 
yet, being once introduced, it remains in our conception and be- 
lief, though the objeds which introduced it be removed. We fee 
no abfurdity in fuppofing a body to be annihilated ; but the fpace 
that contained it remains ; and to fuppofe that annihilated, feems 
to be abfurd. It is fo much allied to nothing or emptinefs, that it 
feems incapable of annihilation or of creation. 

Space not only retains a firm hold of our belief, even when we 
fuppofe all the objedls that introduced it to be annihilated, but it 
fwells to immenfity. We can fet no limits to it, either of extent 
or of duration. Hence we call it immenfe, eternal, immoveable, 
and indcftrudiblc. But it is only an immenfe, eternal, immove- 
able, and indeflrudible void or emptinefs. Perhaps we may apply 



to it what the Peripatetics faid of their firfl matter, that whatever CHAP.Xix. 
it is, ic is potentially only, not acflually. 

When we conflder parts of fpace that have meafure and figure, 
there is nothing we underftand better, nothing about which we 
can reafon fo clearly, and to fo great extent. Extenfion and figure 
are circumfcribed parts of fpace, and are the objecfl of geometry, 
a fcience in which human reafon has the mofl ample field, and can 
go deeper, and with more certainty than in any other. But when 
we attempt to comprehend the whole of fpace, and to trace it to 
its origin, we lofe ourfelves in the fearch. The profound fpecula- 
tions of ingenious men upon this fubjedl differ fo widely, as may- 
lead us to fufped, that the line of human underftanding is too 
Ihort to reach the bottom of it. 

Bifliop Berkeley, I think, was the firfl; who obferved, that tha 
extenfion, figure, and fpace, of which we fpeak in common lan- 
guage, and of which geometry treats, are originally perceived 
by the fenfe of touch only ; but that there is a notion of exten- 
fion, figure, and fpace, which may be got by fight, without any 
aid from touch. To diftinguifh thefe, he calls the firfl tangibls 
extenfion,. tangible figure, and tangible fpace ; the lad he calls 

As I think this difliincflion very important In the philofophy of 
our fenfes, I fhall adopt the names ufed by the inventor to ex^ 
prefs it ; remembering what has been already obferved, that fpace, 
whether tangible or vifible, is not fo properly an objed of fenfe, 
as a neceffary concomitant of the obje<5ls both of fight and touchy 

The reader may likewife be pleafed to attend to this, that when 
I ufe the names of tangible and vifible fpace, I do not mean to 
adopt Bifhop Berkeley's opinion, fo far as to think that they are 
really different things, and altogether unlike. I take them to be 
different conceptions of tlae fame tiling ;. the one very partial, and 


264 ESSAY II. 

CHAP. XIX. the other more complete; but both diflind and juft, as far as 
they reach. 

Thus when I fee a fplre at a very great diilance, it feems like 
the point of a bodkin ; there appears no vane at the top, no angles. 
But when I view the fame objedl at a fmall diftance, I fee a huge 
pyramid of feveral angles with a vane on the top. Neither of 
thefe appearances is fallacious. Each of them is what it ought to 
be, and what it mull be, from fuch an objedl feen at fuch different 
diftances. Thefe different appearances of the fame objedl may 
ferve to illuftrate the different conceptions of fpace, according as 
they are drawn from the information of light alone, or as they 
are drawn from the additional information of toucli. 

Our fight alone, unaided by touch, gives a very partial notion 
of fpace, but yet a diflindl one. When it is confidered, accord- 
ing to this partial notion, I call it vifible fpace. The fenfe of 
touch gives a much more complete notion of fpace ; and when ic 
is confidered according to this notion, I call it tangible fpace. Per- 
haps there may be intelligent beings of a higher order, whofe 
conceptions of fpace are much more complete than thofe we have 
from both fenfes. Another fenfe added to thofe of fight and touch, 
might, for what I know, give us conceptions of fpace, as different 
from thofe we can now attain, as tangible fpace is from vifible ; 
and might refolve many knotty points concerning it, which, from 
the imperfedion of our faculties, we cannot by any labour untie. 

Berkeley acknowledges that there is an exa(5l correfpondence 
between the vifible figure and magnitude of objedls, and the tan- 
gible ; and that every modification of the one has a modification 
of the other correfponding. He acknowledges likewife, that Na- 
ture has eflabliflied fuch a connedlion between the vifible figure 
and magnitude of an object:, and the tangible, that we learn by 
experience to know the tangible figure and magnitude from the 
vifible. And having been accuflomed to do fo from infancy, we 



get the habit of doing it with fuch facility and quicknefs, that we ^[^^^•^^-^' 
think we fee the tangible figure, magnitude, and diftance of bodies, 
when, in reality, we only colled thofe tangible qualities from the 
correfponding vifible qualities, which are natural figns of them. 

The correfpondence and connetflion which Berkeley fliews to be 
between the vifible figure, and magnitude of obje(5ts, and their tan- 
gible figure and magnitude, is in fome refpecfls very fimilar to 
that which we have obferved between our fenfations, and the pri- 
mary qualities with which they are connedled. No fooner is the 
fenfation felt, than immediately we have the conception and belief 
of the correfponding quality. We give no attention to the fenfa- 
tion ; it has not a name ; and it is difiicult to perfuade us that 
there was any fuch thing. 

In like manner, no fooner is the vifible figure and magnitude 
of an objedl feen, than immediately we have the conception and 
belief of the correfponding tangible figure and magnitude. We give 
no attention to the vifible figure and magnitude. It is immediately , 
forgot, as if it had never been perceived ; and it has no name in 
common language ; and indeed, until Berkeley pointed it out 
as a fubjedl of fpeculation, and gave it a name, it had none 
among Philofophers, excepting in one infl:ance, relating to the 
heavenly bodies, 'which are beyond the reach of touch. With re- 
gard to them, what Berkeley calls vifible magnitude, was, by 
Aftronomers, called apparent magnitude. 

There is furely an apparent magnitude, and an apparent figure 
of terreflrial objeds, as well as of celeflial ; and this is what 
Berkeley calls their vifible figure and magnitude. But this was 
never made an objed of thought among Philofophers, until that 
author gave it a name, and obferved the correfpondence and con- 
nedtion between it and tangible magnitude and figure, and how 
the mind gets the habit of pafilng fo inftantaneoufly from the 
vifible figure, as a fign to the tangible figure, as the thing figni- 

L 1 fied 

266 ESSAY II. 

CHAP .xix. £e(i by it, that the firfl is perfeiflly forgot, as if it had never been 

Vifible figure, extenfion and fpace, may be made a fubje<5l of 
mathematical fpeculation, as well as the tangible. In the vifible^ 
we find two dimenfions only ; in the tangible three. In the one, 
magnitude is meafured by angles ; in the other by lines. Every 
part of vifible fpace bears fome proportion to the whole ; but tan- 
gible fpace being immenfe, any part of it bears no proportion to 
the whole. 

Such differences in their properties led Bifliop Berkeley to 
think, that vifible and tangible magnitude and figure, are things 
totally different and difiimilar, and cannot both belong -to the 
fame objeifl. 

And upon this diffimilitude is grounded one of the flrongeft 
arguments by which his fyftem is fupported. For it may be faid, 
if there be external objedls which have a real extenfion and figure, 
it muft be either tangible extenfion and figure, or vifible, or both. 
The laft appears abfurd ; nor was it ever maintained by any man, 
that the fame objedl has two kinds of extenfion and figure, total- 
ly diffunilar. There is then only one of the two really in the 
cbje<5l ; and the other mufl be ideal. But no reafon can be af- 
figned why the perceptions of one fenfe Ihould be real, while 
thofe of another are only ideal ; and he who is perfuaded that the 
obje(5ls of fight are ideas only, has equal reafon to believe fo of 
the objeds of touch. 

This argument, however, lofes all its force, if it be true, as was 
formerly hinted, that vifible figure and extenfion are only a partial 
conception, and the tangible figure and extenfion a more complete 
conception of that figure and extenfion which is really in the objedl. 

It has been proved very fully by Bifliop Berkeley, that figkt 



alone, without any aid from the informations of touch, gives us C HAP. XIX . 
no perception, nor even conception of the diftance of any objedl 
from the eye. But he was not aware, that this very principle 
overturns the argument for his fyftem, taken from the difference 
between vifible and tangible extenfion and figure : For, fuppofing 
external objcdls to exift, and to have that tangible extenfion and 
figure which we perceive, it follows demonftrably, from the prin- 
ciple now mentioned, that their vifible extenfion and figure muft 
be juft what we fee it to be. 

The rules of perfpecSllve, and of the projedllon of the f[)herje, 
which is a branch of perfpe<5live, are demonflrable. They fup- 
pofe the exiftence of ex;ternal objedls, which have a tangible ex- 
tenfion and figure ; and, upon that fuppofition, they demonftrate 
what muft be the vifible extenfion and figure of fuch obje<Ss, when 
placed in fuch a pofition, and at fuch a diftance. 

Hence it is evident, that the vifible figure and extenfion of ob- 
jects is fo far from being incompatible with the .tangible, that the 
firft is a neceflary confequence from the laft, in beings that fee as 
we do. The correfpondence between them is not arbitrary, like 
that between words and the thing they fignify, as Berkelev 
thought ; but it refults necefllarily from the nature of the two 
fenfes ; and this correfpondence being always found in experience 
to be exad^ly what the rules of perfpe(5live fhow that it ought to 
be if the fenfes give true information, is an argument of the 
truth of both. 

C H A P. XX. 

iJf the "Evidence of Senfe^ and of Belief in general. 

THE intention of Nature in the powers which we call the ex- 
ternal fenfes, is evident. They are intended to give us that 
information of external objecfts which the fupreme Being faw to 

L 1 2 be 

268 E S S A Y II. 

CHAP^X. be proper for us in our prefent ftate ; and they give to all man- 
kind the information necefTary for life, without reafoning, without 
any art or inveftigation on our part. 

The mod: unin{lrud:ed peafant has as difl:in<ft a conception, and 
as firm a belief of the immediate objedls of his fenfes, as the great- 
eft Philofopher ; and with this he refts fatisfied, giving himfelf no 
concern how he came by this conception and belief. But the 
Philofopher is impatient to know how his conception of external 
obje(5ls, and his belief of their exiftence, is produced. This, I ann 
afraid, is hid in impenetrable darknefs. But where there is no 
knowledge, there is the more room for conjecflure ; and of this 
Philofophers have always been very liberal. 

The dark cave and fhadows of Plato, the fpecies of Aristotle, 
the films of Epicurus, and the ideas and impreflions of modern 
Philofophers, are the produdions of human fancy, fucceffively in- 
vented to fatisfy the eager defire of knowing how we perceive ex- 
ternal objeds ; but they are all deficient in the two effential cha- 
ra(5ters of a true and philofophical account of the phsenomenon : 
For we neither have any evidence of their exlftence, nor, if they 
did exift, can it be Ihewn how they would produce perception. 

It was before obferved, that there are two ingredients in this 
operation of perception : F'trjl^ The conception or notion of the 
objedl ; and, fecondly^ The belief of its prefent exiftence ; both are 

That we can affign no adequate caufe of our firft conceptions of 
things, I think, is now acknowledged by the mofl: enlightened Phi- 
lofophers. We know that fuch is our conftitution, that in certain 
circumflances we have certain conceptions ; but how they are pro- 
duced, we know no more than how we ourfelves were produced. 

When we have got the conception of external objects by our 



fenfes, we can analyfe them in our thought into their fimple in- CHAP. XX. 
gredients ; and we can compound thofe. ingredients into various 
new forms, which the fenles never prefented. But it is beyond 
the power of human imagination to form any conception, whofe 
fimple ingredients have not been furniflied by Nature in a manner 
tmaccountable to our underftanding. 

We have an imm.cdiate conception of the operations of our own 
minds, joined with a beUef of their exiilence ; and this we call 
confcioufnefs. But this is only giving a name to this fource of 
our knowledge. It is not a difcovery of its caufe. In like man- 
ner, we have, by our external fenfes, a conception of external ob- 
je(5ls, joined with a belief of their exiftence ; and this we call 
perception. But this is only giving a name to another fource of 
our knowledge, without difcovering its caufe. 

We know, that 'when' certain impreffions arc made upon our 
organs, nerves, and brain, certain correfponding fenfations are 
felt, and certain objects are both conceived and believed to exift. 
But in this train of operations Nature works in the dark. We 
can neither difcover the caufe of any one of them, nor any ne- 
cefTary connection of one with another : And whether they are 
connedled by any neceffary tie, or only conjoined in our confti- 
tution by the will of Heaven, we know not. 

That any kind of impreflion upon a body Ihould be the efficient 
caufe of fenfation, appears very abfurd. Nor can we perceive any 
neceffary connection between fenfation and the conception and 
belief of an external object. For any thing we can difcover, we 
might have been fo framed as to have all the fenfations we now 
have by our fenfes, without any impreffions upon our organs, and 
without any conception of any external object. For any tiling 
vve know, we might have been fo made as to perceive external ob- 
jeds, without any impreffions on bodily organs, and without any 



ESSAY 11. 

CHAP. XX. of thofe fenfatlons which invariably accompany perception in our 
prefent frame. 

If our conception of external objecls be unaccountable, the con- 
vidion and belief of their exiftence, which we get by our fenfes, 
is no lefs fo. 

Belief, aflent, convidlion, are words which I think do nof ad- 
mit of logical definition, becaufe the operation of mind fignified 
by them is perfecflly fimple, and of its own kind. Nor do they 
need to be defined, becaufe tliey are common words, and well un- 

Belief muft have an objed. For he that believes, mufl believe 
fomething ; and that which he believes is called the objedl of his 
belief. Of this obje<5l of his belief, he muft have fome conception, 
clear or obfcure ; for although there may be the moft clear and 
diftindl conception of an objedl without any belief of its exiftence, 
■there can be no belief without conception. 

Belief is always exprefled in language by a propofitlon, wherein 
fomething is affirmed or denied. This is the form of fpeech which 
in all languages is appropriated to that purpofe, and without belief 
there could be neither affirmation nor denial, nor ftiould we have 
any form of words to exprefs either. Belief admits of all degrees 
from the flighteft fufpicion to the fulleft aflurance. Thefe things 
are fo evident to every man that refledls, that it would be abufing 
•the reader's patience ^o dwell upon them. 

I proceed to obferve, that there are many operations of mind in 
which, when we analyfe them as far as we are able, we find be- 
lief to be an ^flential ingredient. A man cannot be confcious of 
liis own thoughts, without believing that he thinks. He cannot 
perceive an obye<5l of fenfe, without believing that it exifts. He 
cannot diftindly remember a paft event without believing that it 



did exift. Belief therefore is an ingredient in confcioufnefs, in chap. XX . 
perception, and in remembrance. 

Not only in moft of our intelle<flual operations, but in many of 
the atflive principles of the human mind, belief enters as an ingre- 
dient. Joy and forrow, hope and fear, imply a belief of good or 
ill, either prefent or in expe(!llation. Efteem, gratitude, pity, and 
refentment, imply a belief of certain qualities in their objedts. In 
every adlion that is done for an end, there muft be a belief of its 
tendency to that end. So large a Ihare has belief in our intel- 
ledlual operations, in our a(5live principles, and in our acflions 
themfelves, that as faith in things divine is reprefented as the main 
fpring in the life of a Chriftian, fo belief in general is the main 
fpring in the life of a man. 

That men often believe what there is no juft ground to believe^ 
and thereby are led into hurtful errors, is too evident to be denied: 
And, on the other hand, that there are juft grounds of belief, can 
as little be doubted by any man who is not a perfect fceptic. 

We give the name of evidence to whatever is a ground of be- 
lief. To believe without evidence is a weaknefs which every man 
is concerned to avoid, and which every man wiflies to avoid. Nor 
is it in a man's power to believe any thing longer than he thinks 
he has evidence. 

What this evidence is, is more eafily felt than defcribed. Thofe 
who never refle(5led upon its nature, feel its influence in governing 
their belief. It is the bufinefs of the Logician to explain its nature, 
and to diftinguifh its various kinds and degrees ;. but every man 
of underftanding can judge of it, and commonly judges right, 
when the evidence is fairly laid before him, and his mind i-s free 
from prejudice. A man who knows nothing of the theory of vi- 
iion, may have a good eye ; and a man who never fpeculated about 
evidence in tlie abftra(5l, may have a good judgment. 




CHAP. XX. The common occafions of life lead us to dlftlnguifli evidence In- 
to different kinds, to which we give names that are well under- 
ftood ; fuch as the evidence of fenfe, the evidence of memory, the 
evidence of confcioufnefs, the evidence of teftimony, the evidence 
of axioms, the evidence of reafoning : All men of common under- 
ftanding agree, that each of thefe kinds of evidence may afford 
jufl; ground of belief, and they agree very generally in the circum- 
ftances that flrengthen or weaken them, 

Philofophers have endeavoured by analyfing the different forts 
of evidence, to find out fome common nature wherein they all 
agree, and thereby to reduce them all to one. This was the aim 
of the fchoolmen in their intricate difputes about the criterion of 
truth. Des Cartes placed this criterion of truth in clear and di- 
ftin(fl perception, and laid it down as a maxim, that whatever we 
clearly and diflin(5lly perceive to be true, is true ; but it is difficult 
to know what he underftands by clear and diftin6l perception in 
this maxim. Mr Locke placed it in a perception of the agreement 
or difagreement of our ideas, which perception is immediate in in- 
tuitive knowledge, and by the intervention of other ideas in rea- 

I confefs that, although I have, as I think, a diftin<5l notion of 
the different kinds of evidence above mentioned, and perhaps of 
fome others, which it is unneceffary here to enumerate, yet I am 
not able to find any common nature to which they may all be re- 
duced. They feem to me to agree only in this, that they are all 
fitted by Nature to produce belief in the human mind, fome of 
them in the highefl degree, which we call certainty, others in va- 
rious degrees according to circumflances. 

I fhall take it for granted, that the evidence of fenle, when the 
proper circumflances concur, is good evidence, and a jufl ground 
of belief. My intention in this place is only to compare it with 
the other kinds that have been mentioned, that we may judge 



•whether it be reducible to any of them, or of a nature peculiar to i^ 

Fir/^, It feems to be quite different from the evidence of reafon- 
ing. All good evidence is commonly called reafonable evidence, 
and very juftly, becaufe it ought to govern our belief as reafon- 
able creatures. And, according to this meaning, I think the evi- 
dence of fenfe no lefs reafonable than that of demonftration. If 
Nature give us information of things that concern us, by other 
means than by reafoning, reafon itfelf will dire6l us to receive 
that information with thankfulnefs, and to make the bed ufe of it. 

But when we fpeak of the evidence of reafoning as a particular 
kind of evidence, it means the evidence of propofitions that are in- 
ferred by reafoning, from propofitions already known and believed. 
Thus the evidence of the fifth propofition of the firft book of 
Euclid's Elements confifts in this. That it is (hown to be the ne- 
cefTary confequence of the axioms, and of the preceding propofi- 
tions. In all reafoning, there mufl be one or more premi fes, and 
a conclufion drawn from them. And the premi fes are called the 
reafon why we mufl believe the conclufion which we fee to follow 
from them. 

That the evidence of fenfe is of a different kind, needs little 
proof. No man feeks a reafon for believing what he feps or feels ; 
and if he did, it would be difficult to find one. But though he 
can give no reafon for believing his fenfes, his belief remains as 
firm as if it were grounded on demonftration. 

Many eminent Philofophers thinking it unreafonable to believe, 
when they could not fhovy a reafon, have laboured to furnifh us 
with reafons for believing our fenfes ; but their reafons are very 
infufficient, and will not bear examination. Other Philofophers 
have fhewn very clearly the fallacy of thefe reafons, and have, as 
they imagine, difcovered invincible reafons againft this belief j but 

M m they 

V ' 

374 ESSAY II. 

CHAP.xx. they have never been able either to fhake it in themfelves, or to 
convince others. The flatefman continues to plod, the foldier to 
fight, and the merchant to export and import, without being in 
the leaft moved by the demonflrations that have been offered of 
the non-exiftence of thofe things about which they are fo feriouf^ 
ly employed. Atld a man may as foon, by reafoning, pull the 
moon out of her orbit, as deftroy the belief of the objeds of 

Shall we fay 'then that the evidence of fenfe is the fame with 
that of axioms, or felf-evident truths ? I anfwer,7?r/?. That all mo- 
dern Philofophers feem to agree, that the exiftence of the objedls 
of fenfe is not felf-evident, becaufe fome of them have endeavour- 
ed to prove it hy fubtile reafoning, others to refute it. Neither of 
thef^ can confid^r it as felf-evident. 

Secondly, I would obferve, that the -word axiom is taken by Phi- 
lofophers in fuch a fenfe, as that the exiftence of the obje<5ls of fenfe 
cannot, with propriety, be called an axiom. They give the name 
of axiom only to lelf-evident truths that are neceflary, and are not 
limited to time and place, but muft be true at all times, and in all 
places. The truths attefted by our fenfes are not of this kind j 
they are contingent, and limited to time and place. 

Thus, , that "one is the half of two, is an axiom. It is equally 
true at all times, and in all places. We perceive, by attending to 
the propofition itfelf, that it cannot but be true ; and therefore it 
is called an eternal, neceiTary and immutable truth. That there is 
at prefent a chair on my right hand, and another on my left, is a 
truth attefted by my fenfes ; but it is not neceffary, nor eternal, 
nor immutable. It may not be true next minute ; and therefore, 
to call it an axiom, would, I apprehend, be to deviate from the 
common ufe of the word. 

Thirdly, If the word axiom be put to ftgnify every truth which 



is known immediately, without being deduced from any antece- CHAP . XX. 
dent truth, then the exiflence of the objedls of fenfe may be call- 
ed an axiom. For my fenfes give me as immediate convidtion of 
what they teftify, as my underflanding gives of what is commonly 
called an axiorri. 

There is no doubt an analogy between the evidence of fenfe and 
the evidence of teftimony. Hence we find in all languages the 
analogical expreffions of the teftimony of fenfe y of giving credit to 
our fenfes, and the like. But there is a real difference between 
the two, as well as a fimilitude. In believing upon teftimony, we 
rely upon the authority of a perfbn who teftifies : But we have no 
fuch authority for believing our fenfes. 

Shall we fay then that this belief is the infpiration of the Al- 
mighty ? I think this may be faid in a good fenfe ; for I take it to 
be the immediate effe<5l of our conftitution, which is the work of 
the Almighty. But if infpiration be underftood to imply a per- 
fuafion of its coming from God, our belief of the objedls of fenfe 
is not infpiration ; for a man would believe his fenfes though he 
had no notion of a Deity. He who is perfuaded that he is the 
workmanfhip of God, and that it is a part of his conftitution to 
believe his fenfes, may think that a good reafon to confirm his be- 
lief : But he had the belief before he could give this or any other 
reafon for it. 

If we compare the evidence of fenfe with that of memory, we 
find a great refemblance, but ftill fome difference. I remember 
diftindlly to have dined yefterday with fuch a company. What is 
the meaning of this ? it is, that I have a diftindl conception and 
firm belief of this paft event ; not by reafoning, not by teftimo- 
ny, but immediately from my conftitution : And I give the name 
of memory to that part of my conftitution, by which I have this 
kind of convi(flion of paft events. 

M m 2 1 

276 ESSAY II. 


CHAPXX. I fee a chair on my right hand. What is the meaning of this ? 
it is, that I have; by my conllitution, a diftincfl conception and 
firm belief of the prefent exigence of the chair in fuch a place, 
and in fuch a pofition; and I give the name of feeing to that part 
of my conftitution, by which I have this immediate convidliom 
The two operations agree in the immediate convi(5lion which they 
give. They agree in this alfo, that the things believed are not ne- 
ceflary, but contingent, and limited to time and place. But they 
differ in two refpedls ; firjl^ That memory has fomething for its 
objedl that did exift in time pafl; ; but the objedl of fight, and of 
all the fenfes, muft be fomething which exifts at prefent. And,, 
Jecondly, That I fee by my eyes, and only when they are direded 
to the obje(5t, and when it is illuminated. But my memory is not 
limited by any bodily organ that I know, nor by light and dark- 
nefs, though it has its limitations of another kind. 

Thefe differences are obTious ta all men, and very reafonably 
lead them to confider feeing and remembering as operations fpe- 
cifically different. But the nature of the evidence they give has 
a great refemblance. A like difference and a like refemblance there 
is between the evidence of i fenfe and that of confcio.ufnefs, which 
I leave the reader to trace. 

As to the opinion, that evidence confifls in a perception of the 
agreement or difagreement of ideas, we may have occafion to con- 
fider it more particularly in another place. Here I only obferve, 
that, when taken in the moll favourable fenfe, it may be applied 
with propriety to the evidence of reafoning, and to the evidence 
of fome axioms. But 1 cannot fee how, in any fenfe, it can be 
applied to the evidence of confcioufnefs, to the evidence of me- 
mory, or to that of the fenfes. 

When I compare the different kinds of evidence above mention- 
ed, I confefs, after all, that the evidence of reafoning, and that of 
fome neceffary and fclf-evident truths, fcems to be the lead myfte- 



rious, and the moft perfexflly comprehended ; and therefore I do chap. XX . 
not think it ilrange that Philofophers fhould have endeavoured to 
reduce all kinds of evidence to thefe. 

When I fee a propoficion to be felf-evident and necefTary, and 
that the fubjedl is plainly included in the predicate, there feems to 
be nothing more that I can defire, in order to underftand why I 
believe it. And when 1 fee a confequence that necefTarily follows 
from one or more felf-evident propofitions, I want nothing more 
with regard to my belief of that confequence. The light of truth 
fo fills my mind in thefe cafes, that I can neither conceive, nor de- 
fire any thing more fatisfying. 

On the other hand, when I remember diftindlly a paft event, or 
fee an objedt before my eyes, this commands my belief no lefs than 
an axiom. But whei;i, as a Philofopher, I reflecfl upon this belief^ 
and want to trace it to its origin, I am not able to refolve it into 
necefiary and felf-evident axioms, or conclufions that are neceflari- 
ly confequent upon them. I feem to want tlaat evidence which I 
can beft comprehend, and which gives perfedl fatisfadlion to an in- 
quifitive mind ; yet it is ridiculous to doubt, and I find it is not in 
my power. An attempt to throw off this belief, is like an attempt 
to fly, equally ridiculous and impra(5licable. 

To a Philofopher, who has been accuftomed to think that the 
treafure of his knowledge is the acquifition of that reafoning 
power of which he boafts, it is no doubt humiliating to find, that 
his reafon can lay no claim to the greater part of it. 

By his reafon, he can difcover certain abftradl and neceffary re- 
lations of things : But his knowledge of what really exlfts, or did 
exift, comes by another channel, which is open to thofe who can- 
not reafon. He is led to it in the dark, and knows not how he 
came by it. 

278 ESSAY II. 

CHAP XX. It is no wonder that the pride of philofophy fhould lead fome 
to invent vain theories, in order to account for this knowledge ; 
and others, who fee this to be impradlicable, to fpurn at a know- 
ledge they cannot account for, and vainly attempt to throw it off, 
as a reproach to their underftanding. But the wife and the humble 
will receive it as the gift of Heaven, and endeavour to make the 
beft ufe of it. 


Of the Improvement of the Senfes. 

OUR fenfes may be confidered in two views ;^(y?, As they 
afford us agreeable fenfations, or fubjedl us to fuch as are 
difagreeable ; and, fecondlyy As they give us information of things 
that concern us. 

In \i\tfrji view, they nerther require nor admit of improvement. 
Both the painful and the agreeable fenfations of our external fenfes 
are given by nature for certain ends ; and they are given in that 
degree which is the mofl proper for their end. By diminilhing or 
increafing them, we flaould not mend, but mar the work of Nature. 

Bodily pains are indications of fome diforder or hurt of the bo- 
dy, and admonitions to ufe the beft means in our power to pre- 
vent or remove their caufes. As far as this can be done by tem- 
perance, exercife, regimen, or the fkill of the phyfician, every 
man hath fufficient inducement to do it. 

When pain cannot be prevented or removed, it is greatly alle- 
viated by patience and fortitude of mind. While the mind is fu- 
perior to pain, the man is not unhappy, though he may be exer- 
cifed. It leaves no fling behind it, but rather matter of triumph 



and agreeable refledlion, when borne properly, and In a good^ ^'^^-^^J ' 
caufe. The Canadians have taught us, that even favages may ac- 
quire a fuperiority to the mod excruciating pains ; and, in every 
region of the earth, inftances will be found, where a fenfe of duty, 
of honour, or even of worldly intereft, have triumphed over it. 

It is evident, that Nature intended for man, in his prefent 
flate, a life of labour and toil, wherein he may be occafionally ex- 
pofed to pain and danger : And the happieft man is not he who 
has felt leaft of thofe evils, but he whofe mind is fitted to bear 
them by real magnanimity. 

Our adllve and perceptive powers are improved and perfecfled by 
ufe and exercife. This is the conflitution of Nature. But, with 
regard to the agreeable and difagreeable fenfations we have by our 
fenfes, the very contrary is an eftabliflied conftitution of Nature : 
The frequent repetition of them weakens their force. Senfations 
at firft very difagreeable, by ufe become tolerable, and at laft per- 
fe<5lly indifferent. And thofe that are at firft very agreeable, by 
frequent repetition become infipid, and at laft perhaps give difguft. 
Nature has fet limits to the pleafures of fenfe, which we cannot 
pafs ; and all ftudied gratifications of them, as it is mean and un- 
worthy of a man, fo it is fooliih and fruitless. 

The man who, in eating and drinking, and in other gratifica- 
tions of fenfe, obeys the calls of Nature, without affeding delica- 
cies and refinements, has all the enjoyment that the fenfes can af- 
ford. If one could, by a foft and luxurious life, acquire a more 
delicate fenfibility to pleafure, it muft be at the expence of a like 
fenfibility to pain, from which he can never promife exemption ; 
and at the expence of cherifliing many dileafes which produce pain. 

The improvement of our external fenfes, as they are the means 
of giving us information, is a fubje(5l more worthy of our atten- 
tion : For although they are not the ncbleft and moft exalted 


28o ESSAY II. 

CHA P. XX I. powers of our nature, yet they are not the leafl ufeful. All that 
we know or can know of the material world, mufl be grounded 
upon their information ; and the Philofopher, as well as the day- 
labourer, muft be indebted to them for the largeft part of his 

Some of our perceptions by the fenfes may be called original, 
becaufe they require no previous experience or learning ; but the 
far greateft part is acquired, and the fruit of experience. 

Three of our fenfes, to wit, fmell, tafte, and hearing, originally 
give us only certain fenfations, and a convicSlion that thefe fenfa- 
tioris are occafioned by fome external objedl. We give a name to 
that quality of the objedl by which it is fitted to produce fuch a 
fenfation, and conned that quality with the objedl, and with its 
other qualities. 

Thus we learn, that a certain fenfation of fmell is produced by 
a rofe ; and that quality in the rofe, by which it is fitted to pro- 
duce this fenfation, we call the fmell of the rofe. Here it is evi- 
dent that the fenfation is original. The perception, that the rofe 
has that quality, which we call its fmell, is acquired. In like 
manner, we learn all thofe qualities in bodies, which we call their 
fmell, their tafte, their found. Thefe are all fecondary qualities, 
and we give the fame name to them, which we give to the fenfa- 
tions they produce ; not from any fimilitude between the fenfation 
and the quality of the fame name, but becaufe the quality is fig- 
nified to us by the fenfation as its fign, and becaufe our fenfes give 
us no other knowledge of the quality, but that it is fit to produce 
fuch a fenfation. 

By the other two fenfes, we have much more ample informa- 
tion. By fight, we learn to diftinguifh obje<fls bye heir colour, in 
the fame laianner as by their found, tafte, and fmell. By this fenfe, 
we perceive vifible obje(5ls to have extenfion in two dimenfions, to 



have vifible figure and magnitude, and a certain angular diftance C HAr. XXI . 
from one another. Thefe I conceive are the original perceptions 
of fight. 

By touch, v^e not only perceive the temperature of bodies as to 
heat and cold, which are fecondary qualities, but we perceive ori- 
ginally their three dimenfions, their tangible figure and magni- 
tude, their linear diftance from one another, their hardnefs, foft- 
nefs, or fluidity. Thefe qualities we originally perceive by touch 
only ; but, by experience, we learn to perceive all or moft of them 
by fight. 

We learn to perceive, by one fenfe, what originally could have 
been perceived only by another, by finding a connedlion between 
the objetfls of the different fenfes. Hence the original perceptions, 
or the fenfations of one fenfe become figns of whatever has always 
been found connedled with them ; and from the fign the mind 
paffes immediately to the conception and belief of the thing figni- 
fied : And although the connedlion in the mind between the fign, 
and the thing fignified by it, be the efFedl of cuftom, this cuftom 
becomes a fecond nature, and it is difficult to diftinguifh it from 
the original power of perception. 

Thus, if a fphere of one uniform colour be fet before me, I per- 
ceive evidently by ray eye its fpherical figure, and its three dimen- 
fions. All the world will acknowledge, that by fight only, with- 
out touching it, I may be certain that it is a fphere ; yet it is no 
lefs certain, that, by the original power of fight, I could not per- 
ceive it to be a fphere, and to have three dimenfions. The eye 
originally could only perceive two dimenfions, and a gradual varia- 
tion of colour on the different fides of the obje(5l. 

It is experience that teaches me that the variation of colour is an 
cfFedl of fpherical convexity, and of the diftribution of light and 
fhade. But fo rapid is the progrefs of the thought, from the effedl 

N n to 

282 ESSAY II. 

CHA F.xx r. to the caufe, that we attend only to the lafl, and can hardly he 
perfuaded that we do not immediately fee the three dimenfions of 
the fphere. 

Nay, it may be obferved, that, in this cafe, the acquired per- 
ception in a manner effaces the original one ; for the fphere is (hen 
to be of one uniform colour, though originally there would have 
appeared a gradual variation of colour : But that apparent varia- 
tion, we learn to interpret as the effecfl of light and fhade falling 
upon a fphere of one uniform colour. 

A fphere may be painted upon a plane, fo exadlly, as to be ta- 
ken for a real fphere, when the eye is at a proper diftance, and in 
the proper point of view. We fay in this cafe, that the eye is de- 
ceived, that the appearance is fallacious : But there is no fallacy in 
the original perception, but only in that which is acquired by 
cuftom. The variation of colour, exhibited to the eye by the 
painter's art, is the fame which Nature exhibits by the different 
degrees of light falling upon the convex furface of a fphere. 

In perception, whether original or acquired, there is fomething 
which may be called the fign, and fomething which is fignified to 
us, or brought to our knowledge by that fign. 

In original perception, the figns are the various fenfations which 
are produced by the impreffions made upon our organs. The 
things fignified, are the objedts perceived in confequence of thofe 
fenfations, by the original conftitution of our nature. 

Thus, when I grafp an ivory ball in my hand, I have a certain 
fenfation of touch. Although this fenfation be in the mind, and 
have no fimilitude to any thing material, yet, by the laws of my 
conftitution, it is immediately followed by the conception and 
belief, that there is in my hand a hard fmooch body of a fpheri- 
cal figure, and about an inch and a half in diameter. This belief 



is grounded neither upon reafoning, nor upon experience ; it is the C HAP.Xxr . 
immediate effedl of my conftitution, and this I call original per- 

In acquired perception, the fign may be either a fenfatlon, or 
fomething originally perceived. The thing fignified, is fomething, 
which, by experience, has been found connedled with that fign. 

Thus, when the ivory ball is placed before my eye, I perceive 
by fight what I before perceived by touch, that the ball is fmooth, 
fpherical, of fuch a diameter, and at fuchadiftance from the eye; 
and to this Is added the perception of its colour. All thefe things 
I perceive by fight diftindlly, and with certainty : Yet it is certain 
from principles of philofophy, that if I had not been accuftomed 
to compare the informations of fight with thofe of touch, I iliould 
not have perceived thefe things by fight. I fliould have perceived 
a circular objedl, having its colour gradually more faint towards 
the fliaded fide. But I fliould not have perceived it to have three 
dimenfions, to be fpherical, to be of fuch a linear magnitude, and 
at fuch a diflance from the eye. That thefe laft mentioned are not 
original perceptions of fight, but acquired by experience, is faffi- 
ciently evident from the principles of optics, and from the art of 
painters, in painting objects of three dimenfions, upon a plane 
which has only two. And it has been put beyond all doubt, by 
obfcrvations recorded of feveral perfons, who having, by cataradls 
in their eyes, been deprived of fight from their infancy, have been 
couched and made to fee, after they came tp years of under- 
ftandlng. ^ 

Thofe who have had their eyefight from infancy, acquire fuch 
perceptions fo early, that they cannot recolledl the time when they 
had them not, and therefore make no diftlndiion between thein 
and their original perceptions ; nor can they be eafily perfuaded, 
that there is any jufl foundation for fuch a difllndllon. In all 
languages men fpeak with equal afiTurance of their feeing objects to 

N n 2 be 

284 E S S A Y n. 

CHA P. XX I. be fpherical or cubical, as of their feeling them to be fo ; nor do 
they ever dream, that thcfe perceptions of fight were not as early 
and original as the perceptions they have of the fame objedts by 

This power which we acquire of perceiving things by our fenfes, 
which originally we lliould not have perceived, is not the effe(5t of 
any reafoning on our part : It is the refult of our conftitution, and 
of the fituations in which we happen to be placed. 

We are fo made, that when two things are found to be conjoin- 
ed in certain circumftances, we are prone to believe that they are 
connedled by nature, and will always be found together in like 
circumflances. The belief which we are led into in fuch cafes is 
not the effedl of reafoning, nor does it arife from intuitive evidence 
in the thing believed ; it is, as I apprehend, the immediate eftedt 
of our conftitution : Accordingly it is ftrongeft in infancy, before 
our reafoning power appears, before we are capable of drawing a 
conclufion from premifes. A child who has once burnt his finger 
in a candle, from that fingle inftance cohneds the pain of burn- 
ing with putting his finger in the candle, and believes that thefe 
two things muft go together. It is obvious, that this part of our 
conft;itution is of very great ufe before we come to the ufe of reafon, 
and guards us from a thoufand mifchiefs, which, without it, we 
would rulh into ; it may fometimes lead us into error, but the 
good effedls of it far overbalance the ill. 

It is, no doubt, the perfedion of a rational being to have no be- 
lief but what is grounded on intuitive evidence, or on juft reafon- 
ing : But man, I apprehend, is not fuch a being ; nor is it the in- 
tention of Nature that he fliould be fuch a being, in every period 
of his exiftence. We come into the world without the exercife of 
reafon ; we are merely animal before we are rational creatures ; and 
it is neceflary for our prefervation, that we Ihould believe many 
things before we can reafon. How then is our belief to be regu- 


lated before we have reafon to regulate it ? has Nature left it to be C HAP, xxr . 
regulated by chance ? By no means. It is regulated by certain 
principles, which are parts of our conftitution ; whether they ought 
to be called animal principles, or inftin6llve principles, or what 
name we give to them, is of fmall moment ; but they are certainly 
different from the faculty of reafon : They do the ofBce of reafon 
while it is in its infancy, and muft as it were be carried in a nurfe's 
arms, and they are leading firings to it in its gradual progrefs. 

From what has been faid, I think it appears, that our original 
powers of perceiving objedls by our fenfes receive great improve- 
ment by ufe and habit ; and without this improvement, would be 
altogether infufEcient for the purpofes of life. The daily occur- 
rences of hfe not only add to our flock of knowledge, but give ad- 
ditional perceptive powers to our fenfes ; and time gives us the ufe 
of our eyes and ears, as well as of our hands and legs. 

This is the greatefl and mofl important improvement of our ex- 
ternal fenfes. It is to be found in all men come to years of un- 
derftanding, but is variotis in different perfons according to their 
different occupations, and the different circumftances in which they 
are placed. Every artifl acquires an eye as well as a hand in his 
own profeffion : His eye becomes fkilled in perceiving, no lefs than 
his hand in executing, what belongs to his employment. 

Befides this improvement of our fenfes which nature produces 
without our intention, there are various ways in which they may 
be improved, or their defedls remedied by art. As, firjl^ by a due 
care of the organs of fenfe that they be in a found and natural ftate. 
This belongs to the department of the Medical Faculty. 

Secondly^ By accurate attention to the objedls of fenfe. The ef- 
fects of fuch attention in improving our fenfes appear in every art. 
The artift by giving more attention to certain objcdls than others 
do, by that means perceives many things in thofe objedls which 


286 E S S A Y II. 

CHA P. XX I. others do not. Thofe who happen to be deprived of one fenfe, 
frequently fupply that defedl in a great degree, by giving more ac- 
curate attention to the objecfts of the fenfes they have. The blind 
have often been known to acquire uncommon acutenefs in diftln- 
gulflaing things by feeling and hearing ; and the deaf are uncom- 
monly quick in reading mens thoughts in their countenance. 

A third way in which our fenfes admit of improvement, is, by 
additional organs or inflruments contrived by art. By the inven- 
tion of optical glaffes, and the gradual Improvement of them, the 
natural power of vifion is wonderfully Improved, and a vafl addi- 
tion made to the flock of knowledge which we acquire by the eye. 
By fpeaklng trumpets, and ear trumpets, fome improvement has 
been made in the fenfe of hearing. Whether by limilar inventions 
the other fenfes may be improved, feems uncertain. 

A fourth method by which the information got by our fenfes 
may be improved, is, by difcoverlng the conne<5lion which Nature 
hath eflablifhed between the fenfible qualities of objeds and their 
more latent qualities. 

By the fenfible qualities of bodies, I underftand thofe that are 
perceived Immediately by the fenfes, fuch as their colour, figure, 
feeling, found, tafte, fmell. The various modifications, and va- 
rious combinations of thefe, are innumerable ; fo that there are 
hardly two individual bodies in Nature that may not be dlftln- 
guifhed by their fenfible qualities. 

The latent qualities are fuch as are not immediately dlfcovered 
by our fenfes ; but dlfcovered, fometimes by accident, fometlmes 
by experiment or obfervatlon. The mofl important part of our 
knowledge of bodies, is the knowledge of the latent quallcies of 
the feveral fpecies, by which they are adapted to certain purpofes, 
eithjer for food, or medicine, or agriculture, or for the materials or 
utenfils of fome art or manufacflure. 



I am taught, that certain fpecies of bodies have certain latent CHAP.XXr, 
qualities ; but how Ihall I know that this individual is of fuch a 
fpecies ? This mull be known by the feniible qualities which cha- 
radlerife the fpecies. I mud know that this is bread, and that 
wine, before I eat the one or drink the other. I mufl know that 
this is rhubarb, and that opium, before I ufe the one or the other 
for medicine. 

It is one branch of human knowledge to' know the names of 
the various fpecies of natural and artificial bodies, and to know 
the fenfible qualities by which they are afcertained to be of fuch 
a fpecies, and by which they are diflinguifhed from one another. 
It is another branch of knowledge to know the latent qualities of 
the feveral fpecies, and the ufes to which they are fubfervient. 

The man who pofTeffes both thefe branches, is informed by his ' 
fenfes of innumerable things of real moment, which are hid from 
thofe who poilefs only one, or neither. This is an improvement 
in the information got by our fenfes, which mufl keep pace with 
the Improvements made in natural hiflory, in natural philofophy, 
and in the arcs. - '• ■;:•'..•>• 

It would be an improvement ftill higher, if we were able to 
difcover any connedidn between the fenfible qualities of bodies 
and their latent qualities, without knowing the fpecies, or what 
may have been difcovered with regard to it. 

Some Philofophers of the firfl rate have made attempts towards 
this noble improvement, not without promifing hopes of fuccefs. 
Thus the celebrated Linnjeus has attempted to point out certain 
fenfible qualities by which a plant may very probably be conclu- 
ded to be • poifonous, without knowing its name or fpecies. He 
has given feveral other inflances, wherein certain medical and 
ceconomical virtues of plants are indicated by their external ap- 
pearances. Sir Isaac Newton hath attempted to fhow, that 


288 ESSAY 11. 

CHAP. XXI. from the colours of bodies we may form a probable conje<5lure 
of the fize of their conftituent parts, by which the rays of light 
are refledled. 

No man can pretend to fet limits to the difcoveries that may be 
made by human genius and induftry, of fuch conneiftions between 
the latent and the fenfible qualities of bodies. A wide field here 
opens to our view, whofe boundaries no man can afcertain, of 
improvements that may hereafter be made in the information con- 
veyed to us by our fenfes. 


Of the Fallacy of the Senfes. 

COMPLAINTS of the fallacy of the fenfes have been very com- 
mon in ancient and in modern times, efpecially among the 
Philofophers : And if we fliould take for granted all that they have 
faid on this fubjedt, the natural conclufion from it might feem to 
be, that the fenfes are given to us by fome malignant Dsemon on 
purpofe to delude us, rather than that they are formed by the wife 
and beneficent Author of Nature, to give us true information of 
things neceflary to our prefervation and happinefs. 

The whole fedl of Atomifts among the ancients, led by Demo- 
CRiTUS, and afterwards by Epicurus maintained, that all the 
qualities of bodies which the moderns call feconjlary qualities, te 
wit, fmell, tafte, found, colour, heat and cold, are mere illufions 
of fenfe, and have no real exiftence. Plato maintained that we 
can attain no real knowledge of material things ; and that eter- 
nal and immutable ideas are the only objeds of real knowledge. 
The Academics and Sceptics anxioufly fought for arguments to 
prove the fallacioufnefs of our fenfes, in order to fupport their fa- 


vourite dodlrine, that even in things that feem moft evident, we Chap.xXH. 
ought to with-hold aflent. 

Among the Peripatetics we find frequent complaints that the 
fenfes often deceive us, and that their teftimony is to be fufpeded, 
when it is not confirmed by reafon, by which the errors of fenfe 
may be corrected. This complaint they fupported by many com- 
mon-place inftances ; fuch as, the crooked appearance of an oar 
in water ; objeds being magnified, and their diftance miflaken in 
a fog ; the fun and moon appearing about a foot or two in diame- 
ter, while they are really thoufands of miles ; a fquare tower be- 
ing taken at a diftance to be round. Thefe, and many fimilar ap- 
pearances, they thought to be fufiiciently accounted for from the 
fallacy of the fenfes : And thus the fallacy of the fenfes was ufed 
as a decent cover to conceal their ignorance of the real caufes of 
•fuch phenomena, and ferved the fame purpofe as their occult 
qualities and fubftantial forms. 

Des Cartes and his followers joined in the fame complaint. 
Antony le Grand, a Philofopher of that fedl, in the firft chap- 
ter of his Logic, exprefles the fentiments of the fe(S as foIlow§ : 
" Since all our fenfes are fallacious, and we are frequently de- 
" ceived by them, common reafon advifes, that we fhould not put 
" too much truft in them, nay, that we fhould fufpe<5l falfehood in 
" every thing they reprefent ; for it is imprudence and temerity 
" to truft to thofe who have but once deceived us ; and if they err 
" at any time, they may be believed always to err. They are 
" given by Nature for this purpofe only, to warn us of what is 
" ufeful and what is hurtful to us. The order of Nature is per- 
" verted when we put them to any other ufe, and apply them for 
" the knowledge of truth." 

When we confider, that the adlive part of mankind, in all ages 
from the beginning of the world, have refted their moft important 
concerns ixpon the teftimony of fenfe, it will be very difiicult to 

O o reconcile 

ago ESSAY II. 

C HAP. XX 1 1. reconcile their condudl with the fpeculative opinion fo generally 
entertained of the fallacioufnefs of the fenfes. And it feems to 
be a very unfavourable account of the workmanfhip of the Su- 
preme Being, to think that he has given us one faculty to deceive 
us, to wit, our fenfes, and another faculty, to wit, our reafon, to 
dete(5l the fallacy. 

It deferves, therefore, to be confidered, whether the fallacioufnefs 
of our fenfes be not a common error, which men have been led in- 
to, from a defire to conceal their ignorance, or to apologife for 
their millakes. ' 

There are two powers which we owe to our external fenfes, 
fenfation, and the perception of external objefls. 

It is impollible that there can be any fallacy in fenfation : For 
we are confcious of all our fenfations, and they can neither be any 
other in their nature, nor greater or lefs in their degree than we 
feel them. It is impoffible that a man fliould be in pain, when 
he does not feel pain ; and when he feels pain, it is impoffible that 
his pain Ihould not be real, and in its degree what it is felt to be ; 
and the fame thing may be faid of every fenfation whatfoever. 
An agreeable or an uneafy fenfation may be forgot when it is paft, 
but when it is prefent, it can be nothing but what we feel. 

If, therefore, there be any fallacy in our fenfes, it muft be in the 
perception of external obje(5ls, which we Ihall next confider. 

And here I grant that we can conceive powers of perceiving ex- 
ternal obje<5ls more perfedl than ours, which, poffibly, beings of a 
higher order may enjoy. We can perceive external obje(5ls only 
by means of bodily organs ; and thefe are liable to various difor- 
dcrs, which fomctimes affe£l our powers of perception. The 
nerves and brain, which are interior organs of perception, are like- 
wife liable to diforders, as every part of the human frame is. 



The imagination, the memory, the judging and reafoning pow- C HAP . XXI I. 
ers, are all liable to be hurt, or even deftroyed, by diforders of the 
body, as well as our powers of perception ; but we do not on this 
account call them fallacious. 

Our fenfes, our memory, and our reafon, are all limited and 
imperfedl : This is the lot of humanity : But they are fuch as the 
Author of our being faw to be bed fitted for us in our prefent flate. 
Superior natures may have intelledlual powers which we have not, 
or fuch as we have, in a more perfecfl degree, and lefs liable to 
accidental diforders : But we have no reafon to think that God has 
given fallacious powers to any of his creatures : This would be to 
think dilhonourably of our Maker, and would lay a foundation 
for univerfal fcepticifm. 

The appearances commonly imputed to the fallacy of the fenfes 
are many, and of different kinds ; but I think they may be redu- 
ced to the four following clalTes. 

Firjl^ Many things called deceptions of the fenfes arc only con- 
clufions rafhly drawn from the. teftimony of the fenfes. In thefe 
cafes the teftimony of the fenfes is true, but we raftily draw a con- 
clufion from it, which does not necefTarily follow. We are difpo- 
fed to impute our errors rather to falfe information than to incon- 
clufive reafoning, and to blame our fenfes for the wrong conclufions 
we draw from their teftimony. 

Thus, when a man has taken a counterfeit guinea for a true one, 
he fays his fenfes deceived him ; but he lays the blame where it 
ought not to be laid : For we may aflc him, Did your fenfes give 
a falfe teftimony of the colour, or of the figure, or of the impref- 
fion ? No. But this is all that they teftified, and this they teftified 
truly : From thefe premifes you concluded that it was a true guinea, 
but this conclufion does not follow ; you erred therefore, not by 
relying upon the teftimony of fenfe, but by judging raflily from 

O o 2 its 



CHAP.XXII. its tefllmony : Not only are your fenfes innocent of this error, but 
it is only by their information that it can be difcox'ered. If you 
confult them properly, they will inform you that what you took 
for a guinea is bafe metal, or is deficient in weight, and this can 
only be known by the teftimony of fenfe. 

1 remember to have met with a man who thought the ar- 
gument ufed by Proteftants againft the Popifh dodlrine of tranfub- 
llantiation, from the teftimony of our fenfes, inconclufive ; becaufe, 
faid he, inflances may be given where feveral of our fenfes may de- 
ceive us : How do we know thien that there may not be cafes where- 
in they all deceive us, and no fenfe is left to deteA the fallacy ? I 
begged of him to know an inftance wherein feveral of our fenfes 
deceive us. I take, faid he, a piece of foft turf, I Cut it iftto the 
Ihape of an apple ; with the eflence of apples, I give it the fmell of 
an apple ; and with paint, I can give it the fkin and colour of an 
apple. Here then is a body, which, if you jadge by your eye, by 
your touch, or by your fmell, is an apple. 

To this I would anfwer, that no one of our fenfes deceives us in 
this cafe. My fight and touch teftify that it has the fhape and co- 
lour of an apple : This is true. - The fenfe of fmetling teflifies that 
it has the fmell of an apple : This is likewife true, and is no de- 
ception. Where then lies the deception ? It is evident it lies in 
this, that becaufe this body has fome qualities belonging to an 
apple, I conclude that it is an apple. This is a fallacy, not of the 
fenfes, but of inconclufive reafoning. 

Many falfe judgments that are accounted deceptions of fenfe, 
arife from our miflaking relative motion for real or abfolute mo- 
tion. Thefe can be no deceptions of fenfe, becaufe by our fenfes 
we perceive only the relative motions of bodies ; and it is by rea- 
foning that we infer the real from the relative which we perceive. 
A little refledion may fatisfy us of this. 



It was before obferved, that we perceive extenfion to be one fen- CH AP.XXI I. 
fible quality of bodies, and thence are neceflarily led to conceive 
fpace, though fpace be of itfelf no obje<5l of fenfe. When a body 
is removed out of its place, the fpace which it filled remains empty 
till it is filled by fome other body, and would remain if it fhould 
never be filled. Before any body exifted, the fpace which bodies 
Ii6w occupy was empty fpace, capable of receiving bodies ; for no 
body can exift where there is no fpace to contain it. There is fpace 
therefore wherever bodies exift, or can exift. 

Hence it is evident that fpace can have no limits. It is no lefs 
evident that it is immoveable. Bodies placed in it are moveable, 
but the place where they were cannot be moved ; and we can as 
eafily conceive a thing to be moved from itfelf, as one part of fpace 
brought nearer to, or removed farther from another. 

This fpace therefore which ia unlimited and immoveable, is called 
by Philofophers abfolute fpace. Abfolute or real motion is a change 
of place in abfolute fpace. 

Our fenfes do not teftify the abfolute motion or abfolute reft of 
any body. When one body removes from another, this may be 
difcerned by the fenfes ; but whether any body keeps the fame pare 
of abfolute fpace, we do not perceive by our fenfes : When one 
body feems to remove from another, we can infer with certainty 
that there is abfolute motion, but whether in the one or the 'other, 
or partly in both, is not difcerned by fenfe. 

Of all the prejudices which philofophy contradldls, I believe 
there is none fo general as that the earth keeps its place unmoved. 
This opinion feems to be univerfal, till it is correded by inftruc- 
tion, or by philofophical fpeculation. Thofe who have any tinc- 
ture of education are not now in danger of being held by it, but 
they find at firft a relu(5tance to believe that there are antipodes ; 
that the earth is fpherical, and turns round its axis every day, and 




CHAP.xxii. lound the fun every year : They can recolle(5l the time when reafon 
ftruggled with prejudice upon thefe points, and prevailed at length, 
but not without fome effort. 

The caufe of a prejudice fo very general is not unworthy of in- 
veftigation. But that is not our prefent bufinefs. It is fufEcient 
to obferve, that it cannot juftly be called a fallacy of fenfe ; becaufe 
our fenfes teftify only the change of fituation of one body in rela- 
tion to other bodies, and not its change of fituation in abfolute 
fpace. It is only the relative motion of bodies that we perceive, 
and that, we perceive truly. It is the province of reafon and phi- 
lofophy, from the relative motions which we perceive, to colle<5l 
the real and abfolute motions which produce them. 

All motion muft be eftimated from fome point or place which is 
fuppofed to be at reft. We perceive not the points of abfolute 
fpace, from which real and abfolute motion muft be reckoned : 
And there are obvious reafons that lead mankind in the ftate of 
ignorance, to make the earth the fixed place from which they may 
eftimate the various motions they perceive. The cuftom of doing 
this from infancy, and of ufing conftantly a language which fup- 
pofes the earth to be at reft, may perhaps be the caufe of the ge- 
neral prejudice in favour of this opinion. 

Thus it appears, that if we diftinguifti accurately between what 
our fenfes really and naturally teftify, and the conclufions which 
we draw from their teftimony by reafoning, we fliall find many of 
the errors, called fallacies of the fenfes, to be no fallacy of the fen- 
fes, but rafli judgments, which are not to be imputed to our 

Secondly^ Another clafs of errors imputed to the fallacy of the 
fenfes, are thofe which we are liable to in our acquired perceptions. 
Acquired perception is not properly the teftimony of thofe fenfes 
which God hath given us, but a conclufion drawn from what the 



fenfes teftify. In our pafl experience, we have found certain C HAP , xx if. 
things conjoined with what our fenfes teftify. We are led by our 
conftitution to expetfl this conjundlion in time to come ; and when 
we have often found it in our experience to happen, we acquire a 
firm behef, that the things which we have found thus conjoined 
are conne(5led in nature, and that one is a fign of the other. The 
appearance of the fign immediately produces the belief of its ufual 
attendant, and we think we perceive the one as well as the other. 

That fuch conclufions are formed even in infancy, no man can 
doubt ; nor is it lefs certain that they are confounded with the na- 
tural and immediate perceptions of fenfe, and in all languages are 
called by the fame name. We are therefore authorifed by lan- 
guage to call them perception, and muft often do fo, or fpeak un- 
intelligibly. But philofophy teaches us in this, as in many other 
inflances, to diflinguifli things which the vulgar confound. I have 
therefore given the name of acquired perception to fuch conclu- 
fions, to diflinguifh them from what is naturally, originally, and 
immediately teflified by our fenfes. Whether this acquired per- 
ception is to be refolved into fome procefs of reafoning, of which 
we have loft the remembrance, as fome Philofophers think, or whe- 
ther it refults from fome part of our conftitution diftind from rea- 
fon, as I rather believe, does not concern the prefent fubjedl. If 
the firft of thefe opinions be true, the errors of acquired percep- 
tion will fall under the firft clafs before meiationed. If not, ic 
makes a diftindl clafs by itfelf. But whether the one or the other 
be true, it muft be obferved, that the errors of acquired percep- 
tion are not properly fallacies of our fenfes. 

Thus when a globe is fet before me^ I perceive by my eyes that 
it has three dimenfions and a fpherical figure. To fay that this is 
not perception, would be to rejedl the authority of cuftom in the 
ufe of words, which no wife man will do : But that it is not the 
teftimony of my fenfe of feeing, every Philofopher knows. I fee 
only a circular form, having the light and colour diftributed in a 


296 E S S A Y II. 

CHAP. XXII. certain way over it. But being accuftomed to obferve this diftri- 
bution of light and colour only in a fpherical body, I immediate- 
ly, from what I fee, believe the objedl to be fpherical, and fay that 
I fee or perceive it to be fpherical. When a painter, by an exa<5l 
imitation of that diftribution of light and colour, which I have 
been accuftomed to fee only in a real fphere, deceives me, fo as to 
make me take that to be a real fphere, which is only a painted one, 
the teftimony of my eye is true ; the colour and vifible figure of 
the objedl is truly what I fee it to be : The error lies in the conclu- 
fion drawn from what I fee, to wit, that the objedl has three di- 
menfions and a fpherical figure. The conclufion is falfe in this 
cafe ; but whatever be the origin of this conclufion, it is not pro- 
perly the teftimony of fenfe. 

To this clafs we muft refer the judgments we are apt to form of 
the diftance and magnitude of the heavenly bodies, and of ter- 
reftrial objedls feen on high. The miftakes we make of the mag- 
nitude and diftance of objedls feen through optical glafl^es, or 
through an atmofphere uncommonly clear, or uncommonly foggy, 
belong likewife to this clafs. 

The errors we are led into in acquired perception are very rare- 
ly hurtful to us in the condudl of life ; they are gradually cor- 
redled by a more enlarged experience, and a more perfedl know- 
ledge of the laws of Nature : And the general laws of our confti- 
tution, by which we are fometimes led into them, are of the great- 
eft utility. 

We come into the world ignorant of every thing, and by our 
ignorance expofed to many dangers and to many miftakes. The 
regular train of caufes and effedls, which Divine Wifdom has efta- 
bliflied, and which diredls every ftep of our condudl in advanced 
life, is unknown, until it is gradually difcovered by experience. 

We muft learn much from experience before we can reafon, and 



therefore mutt be liable to many errors. Indeed, I apprehend, C HAP, xxj i. 

that, in the firft part of life, reafon would do us much more hurt 

than good. Were we fenfible of our condition in that period, and 

capable of refleding upon it, we fliould be like a man in the dark, 

furrounded with dangers, where every ftep he takes may be into a 

pit. Reafon would direct him to fit down, and wait till he could 

fee about hirii. 

In like manner, if we fuppofe an infant endowed with reafon, 
it would dire(5l him to do nothing, till he knew what could be done 
with fafety. This he can only know by experiment, and experi- 
ments are dangerous. Reafon diredls, that experiments that are 
fulj of danger fhould not be made without a very urgent caufe. 
It would therefore make the infant unhappy, and hinder his ira^ 
provement by experience. 

Nature has followed another plan. The child, unapprehenfive 
of danger, is led by inftindl to exert all his adlive powers, to try 
every thing without the cautious admonitions of reafon, and to 
believe every thing that is told him. Sometimes he fuffers by his 
ralhnefs what reafon would have prevented : But his fuffering . 
prc>ves a falutary difcipline, and makes him for the future avoid 
the caufe of it. Sometimes he is impofed upon by his credulity ; 
but it is of infinite benefit to him upon the whole. His adlivity 
and credulity are more ufeful qualities, and better inftrudlors than 
reafon would be ; they teach him more in a day than reafon would 
do in a year ; they furnilh a ttock of materials for reafon to work 
upon ; they make him eafy and happy in a period of his exiftence, 
when reafon could only ferve to fuggeft a thoufand tormenting 
anxieties and fears : And he a<5ls agreeably to the conftitution and 
intention of Nature, even when he does and believes what reafon 
would not juftify. So that the wifdom and goodnefs of the Au- 
thor of Nature is no lefs confpicuous in with-holding the exercife 
of our reafon in this period, than in bettowing it when we are 
ripe for it. 

P p A 

298 E S S A Y II. 

CHAP. XXII. A third clafs of errors, afcribed to the fallacy of the fenfes, pro- 
ceeds from ignorance of the laws of Nature. 

The laws of Nature (I mean not moral but phyiical laws) are 
learned, either from our own experience, or the experience of 
others, who have had occafion to obferve the courfe of Nature. 

Ignorance of thofe laws, or inattention to them, is apt to occa- 
fion falfe judgments with regard to the objedls of fenfe, efpecially 
thofe of hearing and of fight ; which falfe judgments are often, 
without good reafon, called fallacies of fenfe. 

Sounds affedl the ear differently, according as the founding bo- 
dy is before or behind us, on the right hand or on the left, near 
or at a great diftance. We learn, by the manner in which the 
found affedls the ear, on what hand we are to look for the found- 
ing body ; and in mofl cafes we judge right. But we are fome- 
times deceived by echos, or by whifpering galleries, or fpeaking 
trumpets, which return the found, or alter its diredlion, or con- 
vey it to a diftance without diminution. 

The deception is flill greater, becaufe more uncommon, which 
is faid to be produced by Gaftriloquifls, that is, perfons who have 
acquired the art of modifying their voice, fo that it Ihall a.Se6\ 
the ear of the hearers, as if it came from another perfon, or from 
the clouds, or from under the earth. 

I never had the fortune to be acquainted with any of thefe ar- 
tifls, and therefore cannot fay to what degree of perfecflion the art 
may have been carried. 

I apprehend it to be only fuch an imperfedl imitation as may 
deceive thofe who are inattentive, or under a panic. For if it 
could be carried to perfedlion, a Gaftriloquifl would be as danger- 
ous a man in fociety as was the fliepherd Giges, who, by turning 

a . 


a ring upon his finger, could make himfelf Invifible, and by that CIIAP. xxii. 
means, from being the King's fhepherd, became King of Lydia. 

If the Gaftriloquifts have all been too good men to ufe their ta- 
lent to the detriment of others, it might at leafl: be expeded that 
fbrae of them ftiould apply it to their own advantage. If it could 
be brought to any confiderable degree of perfedlion, it feems to be 
as proper an engine for drawing money by the exhibition of it, a& 
legerdemain or rope-dancing. But I have never heard of any ex- 
hibition of this kind, and therefore am apt to think that it is too 
coarfe an imitation to bear exhibition even to the vulgar. 

Some are faid to have the art of imitating the voice of another 
lb exadlly, that in the dark they might be taken for the perfon 
whofe voice they imitate. I am apt to think, that this art alfo, in 
the relations made of it, is magnified beyond the truth, as won- 
derful relations are apt to be, and that an attentive ear would be 
able to diftinguifli the copy from the original. 

It is indeed a wonderful inftance of the accuracy as well as of 
the truth of our fenfes, in things that are of real ufe in life, that 
we are able to diflingulfh all our acquaintance by their counte- • 
nance, by their voice, and by their hand-writing, when at the 
fame time we are often unable to fay by what minute difference 
the diftin<5lion is made j and that we are fo very rarely deceived in. 
matters of this kind, when we give proper attention to the infor- 
mations of fenfe. 

However, if any cafe fhould happen, in which founds produ- 
ced by different caufes are not di(linguifhable by the ear, this may 
prove that our fenfes are imperfedV, but not tliat they are fallaci- 
ous. The ear may not be able to draw the jufl conclufion, but it 
is only our ignorance of the laws of found that leads us to a wrong 

P p a Deceptions 



CHAP. XXH. Deceptions of fight, arifing from ignorance of the laws of Nature, 
are more numerous, and more remarkable than thofe of hearing. 

The rays of light, which are the means of feeing, pafs in right 
lines from the objed to the eye, when they meet with no obflruc- 
tion ; and we are by Nature led to conceive the vifible object to be 
in the direclion of the rays that come to the eye. But the rays 
may be refleded, refraded, or infleded in their paflage from the 
object to the eye, according to certain fixed laws of Nature, by 
which means their diredion may be changed, and confequently 
the apparent place, figure, or magnitude of the objed. 

Thus a child feeing himfelf in a mirror, thinks he fees another 
child behind the mirror, that imitates all his motions. But even 
a child foon gets the better of this deception, and knows that he 
fees himfelf only. 

All the deceptions made by telefcopes, microfcopes, camera ob- 
fcuras, magic lanthorns, are of the fame kind, though not fo fa- 
miliar to the vulgar. The ignorant may be deceived by them ; 
but to thofe who are acquainted with the principles of optics, they 
give jufl and true information, and the laws of Nature by which 
they are produced are of infinite benefit to anankind. 

There remains another clafs of errors, commonly called decep- 
tions of fenfe, and the only one, as I apprehend, to which that 
name can be given with propriety : I mean fuch as proceed from 
fome diforder or preternatural (late, either of the external organ, 
or of the nerves and brain, which are internal organs of perception. 

In a delirium, or in madnefs, perception, memory, imagination, 
and our reafoning powers, are ftrangely difordered and confound- 
ed. There are likewife difbrders which affed fome 6f our fenfes, 
while others are found. Thus, a man may feel pain in his toes 
after the leg is cut oflf. He may feel a little ball double by crof- 



fing his fingers. He may fee an object double, by not di- 
redling both eyes properly to it. By prefling the ball of his eye, 
he may fee colours that are not real. By the jaundice in his eyes, 
he may miftake colours. Thefe are more properly deceptions of 
fenfe than any of the clafTes before mentioned. 

"We mufl acknowledge it to be the lot of human nature, that all 
the human faculties are liable, by accidental caufes, to be hurt 
and unfitted for their natural fundlions, either wholly or in part : 
But as this imperfedlion is common to them all, it gives no jufl 
ground for accounting any of them fallacious. 

Upon the whole, it feems to have been a common error of Phi- 
lofophers to account the fenfes fallacious. And to this error they 
have added another, that one ufe of reafon is to dete<fl the falla- 
cies of fenfe. 

' '."rj :'o/ 
It appears, I think, from what has been faid, that there is no 

more reafon to account our fenfes fallacious, than our reafon, our 
memory, or any other faculty of judging which Nature hath given 
us. They are all limited and imperfed ; but wifely fuited to the 
prefent condition of man. We are liable to error and wrong 
judgment in the ufe of them all ; but as little in the informations 
of fenfe as in the dedudlions of reafoning. And the errors we 
fall into with regard to obje(5ts of fenfe are not corrected by rea- 
fon, but by more accurate attention to the informations we may 
receive by our fenfes themfelves. 

Perhaps the pride of Philofophers may have given occafion to 
this error. Reafon is the faculty wherein they aflume a fuperio- 
rity to the unlearned. The informations of fenfe are common to 
the Philofopher and to the mod illiterate : They put all men upon 
a level ; and therefore are apt to be undervalued. We mufl, how- 
ever, be beholden to the informations of fenfe for the greatefl and 
moft interefling part of our knowledge. The wifdom of Nature 


"> ., ' 

302 ESSAY II. 

C HAP;XXT I. ]|as made the mofl ufeful things mofi: common, and they ouglxt 
not to be defpifed on that account. Natvire Ukewife forces our be- 
lief in thofe informations, and all the attempts of philofophy to 
weaken it are fruitlefs and vain. 

I add only one obfervation to what has been fald upon this fub- 
jeifT.' It is, that there feems to be a contradidlion between what 
Philofophers teach concerning ideas, and their docflrine of the fal- 
lacioufnefs of the fenfes. We are taught that the office of the 
fenfes is only to give lis the ideas of external objecfls. If this be 
fo, there can be no fallacy in the fenfes. Ideas can neither be true 
nor falfe. If the fenfes teflify nothing, they cannot give falfe 
teflimony. If they are not judging faculties, no judgment can 
be irhputed to tliem, whether falfe or true. There is, therefore, 
a contradi(5lion between the common doctrine concerning ideas 
and that of the fallacioufnefs of the fenfes. Both may be falfe,. 
as I believe they are, but both cannot be true. 


CHAP. r. 

V u ' 



C H A P. I. 

' 'Things obvious and certain with regard to Memory. 

IN the gradual progrefs of man, from infancy to maturity, there 
is a certain order in which his faculties are unfolded, and this 
feems to be the befl order we can follow in treating of them. 

The external fenfes appear firft ; memory foon follows, which 
we are now to confider. 

It is by memory that we have an immediate knowledge of things 
paft : The fenfes give us information of things only as they exift 
in the prefent moment ; and this information, if it were not pre- 
ferved by memory, would vanifh inftantly, and leave us as igno- 
rant as if it had never been. 

Memory muft have an objedl. Every man who remembers muft 
remember fomething, and that which he remembers is called the 
obje6l of his remembrance. In this, memory agrees with percep- 
tion, but differs from fenfation, which has no obje(51: but the feel- 
ing itfelf. 

Every man can diftinguifh the thing remembered from the re- 
membrance of it. We may remember any thing which we have 




CHAP. I. feen, or heard, or known, or done, or fufFered : but the remem- 
brance of it is a particular aifl of the mind which now exifts, and 
of which we are confcious. To confound thefe two is an abfur- 
dity, which a thinking man could not be led into, but by fome 
falfe hypothefis which hinders him from refledling upon the thing 
which he would explain by it. 

In memory we do not find fuch a train of operations connedted 
by our conftitution as in perception. When we perceive an objetfl 
by our fenfes, there is, firft, fome impreffion made by the objedl 
upon the organ of fenfe, either immediately or by means of fome 
medium. By this an impreffion is made upon the nerves and 
brain, in confequence of which we feel fome fenfation j and that 
fenfation is attended by that conception and belief of the external 
object which we call perception. Thefe operations are fo con- 
nedled in our conftitution, that it is difficult to disjoin them in our 
conceptions, and to attend to each without confounding it with the 
others. But in the operations of memory we are free from this 
embarraffinent ; they are eafily diftinguiflied from all other ajfls of 
the mind, and the names which denote them ai^e free from alii 

The obje<5l of memory, or thing remembered, muft be fome- 
thing that is paft j as the objedl of perception and of confcioufnefs 
muft be fomething which is prefent : What now is, cannot be an 
obje<Sl of memory ; neither can that which is paft and gone be an 
cbje(5l of perception or of confcioufnefs. 

Memory is always accompanied with the belief of that which 
we remember, as perception is accompanied with the belief of that 
wliich we perceive, and confcioufnefs with the belief of that 
whereof we are confcious. Perhaps in infancy, or in a diforder of 
mind, things remembered may be confounded with thofe which are 
merely imagined; but in mature years, and in a found ftate of mind,, 
every man feels that he muft believe what he diftindly remembers, 




though he can give no other reafon of his belief, but that he re- CHAP. I.^ 
members the thing dillindlly ; whereas, when he merely imagines 
a thing ever fo diftin(5lly, he has no belief of it upon that account. 

This belief, which we have from diftindl memory, we account 
real knowledge, no lefs certain than if it was grounded on demon- 
(Iration ; no man in his wits calls it in queftion, or will hear any 
argument againft it. The tellimony of witnelles in caufes of life 
and death depends upon it, and all the knowledge of mankind of 
pad events is built on this foundation. 

There are cafes in which a man's memory is lefs diftincfl and 
determinate, and where he is ready to allow that it may have failed 
him ; but this does not' in the leaft weaken its credit, when it is , 
perfedlly diftindl. 

Memory implies a conception and belief of paft duration ; for it 
is impoflible that a man fliould remember a thing dift;in<5lly, with- 
out believing fome interval of duration, more or lefs, to have pafled 
between the time it happened, and the prefent moment ; and I 
think it is impoflible to Ihow how we could acquire a notion of 
duration if we had no memory. 

Things remembered muft be things formerly perceived or known. 
I remember the tranfit of Venus over the fun in the year 1 769. I 
muft therefore have perceived it at the time it happened, other- 
wife I could not now remember it. Our firfl acquaintance with 
any objedl of thought cannot be by remembrance. Memory can 
only produce a continuance or renewal of a former acquaintance 
with the thing remembered. 

The remembrance of a paft event is neceflarily accompanied 
with the convidlion of our own exiftence at the time the event 
happened. I cannot remember a thing that happened a year ago, 
without a convi«5lion as ftrong as memory can give, that I, the 

Q^q fame 

3o6 ' ESSAY ril. 

CHAP. I. fame ideatical perfon who now remember that event, did then 

-What I have hitherto faid concerning memory, I confider as 
principles which appear obvious and certain to every man who 
will take the pains to reflejfl upon the operations of his own mind» 
They are facls of which every man muft judge by what he feels j 
and they admit of no other proof but an appeal to every man's 
own refledlion. I fhall therefore take them for granted in what 
follows, and Ihall firft draw fome conclufions from them, and then 
examine the theories of Philofophers concerning memory, and con- 
cerning duration, and our perfonal identity, of which we acquire 
the knowledge by memory. 

CHAP, ii: 

Memory an original Faculty. 

FIRST, I think it appears that memory is an original faculty- 
given us by the Author of our being, of which we can give 
no account, but that we are fo made. 

The knowledge which I have of things paft by my memory, 
feems to me as unaccountable as an immediate knowledge would 
be of things to come ; and I can give no reafon why I fliould have 
the one and not the other, but that fuch is the will of my Maker. 
I find in my mind a diftindl conception and a firm belief of a feries 
of paft events ; but how this is produced I know not. I call it 
memory, but this is only giving a name to it ; it is not an account 
of its caufe. I believe mod firmly what I diftiniflly remember ; 
but I can give no reafon of this belief. It is the infpiration of the 
Almighty that gives me this underftanding. 



When I believe the truth of a mathematical axiom, or of a mathe- CHAP. IL 
matical propofition, I fee that it muft be fo : Every man who has 
the fame conception of it fees the fame. There is a neceflary and 
an evident connexion between the fubjedl and the predicate of the 
propofition ; and I have all the evidence to fupport my belief which 
I can poffibly conceive. 

When I believe that I walhed my hands and face this morning, 
there appears no neceffity in the truth of this propofition. It might 
be, or it might not be. A man may diftindly conceive it with- 
out believing it at all. How then do I come to believe it ? I re- 
member it difl;in<5lly. This is all I can fay. This remembrance is 
an aft of my mind. Is it impoflible that this adl fhould be, if the 
event had not happened ? I confefs I do not fee any neceflTary con- 
nexion between the one and the other. If any man can fhow fuch 
a neceflTary connedlion, then I think that belief which we have of 
what we remember will be fairly accounted for ; but if this can- 
not be done, that belief is unaccountable, and we can fay no more 
but that it is the refult of our conftitution. 

Perhaps it may be faid, that the experience we have had of the 
fidelity of memory is a good reafon for relying upon its teflimony. 
I deny not that this may be a reafon to thofe who have had this 
experience, and who re'fledl upon it. But I believe there are few 
who ever thought of this reafon, or who found any need of it. It 
muft be fome very rare occafion that leads a man to have recourfe 
to it ; and in thofe who have done fo, the teftimony of memory 
was believed before the experience of its fidelity, and that belief 
could not be caufed by the experience which came after it. 

We know fome abftracfl truths, by comparing the terms of the 
propofition which expreflTes them, and perceiving fome necefllary 
relation or agreement between them. It is thus I know that two 
and three make five ; that the diameters of a circle are all equal. 
Mr Locke having difcovered this fource of knowledge, too rafhly 

Q^q 2 concluded 


CHA P. IT. concluded that all human knowledge might be derived from ic ; 
and in this he has been followed very generally ; by Mr Hump, in 

But I apprehend, that our knowledge of the exiftence of things 
contingent can never be traced to this fource. I know that fuch a 
thing exifls, or did exlft. This knowledge cannot be derived from 
the perception of a neceflary agreement between exiftence and the 
thing that exifts, becaufe there is no fuch necefTary agreement ; 
and therefore no fuch agreement can be perceived either immediate- 
ly, or by a chain of reafoning. The thing does not exifl: neceffa- 
rily, but by the will and power of him that made it ; and there is 
no contradi<5lion follows from fuppofing it not to exift. 

Whence I think it follows, that our knowledge of the exiftence 
of our own thoughts, of the exiftence of all the material objedts 
about us, and of all paft contingencies, muft be derived, not from 
a perception of necefTary relations or agreements, but from fome 
other fource. 

Our Maker has provided other means for giving us the know- 
ledge of thefe things ; means which perfetflly anfwer their end, 
and produce the effecfl intended by them. But in what manner 
they do this, is, I fear, beyond our ikill to explain. We know 
our own thoughts, and the operations of our minds, by a power 
which we call confcioufnefs : But this is only giving a name to 
this part of our frame. It does not explain its fabric, nor how it 
produces in us an irrefiftible convi(5lion of its informations. We 
perceive material objedls and their fenfible qualities by our fenfcs ; 
but how they give us this information, and how they produce our 
belief in it, we know not. We know many paft events by memo- 
ry ; but how it gives this information, I believe, is inexplicable. 

It is well known what fubtlie difputes were held through all the 
fcholaftic ages, and are ftUl carried on about the prefcience of the 



Deity. Aristotle had taught, that there can be no certain fore- chap. n. 
knowledge of things contingent j and in this he has been very ge- 
nerally followed, upon no other grounds, as I apprehend, but that 
we cannot conceive how fuch things Ihould be foreknown, and 
therefore conclude it to be impofTible. Hence has arifen an op- 
pofition and fuppofed inconfiftency between Divine prefciencc and 
human liberty. Some have given up the firft in favour of the laft, 
and others have given up the laft in order to fupport the firft. 

It is remarkable, that thefe difputants have never apprehended 
that there is any difficulty in reconciling with liberty the know- 
ledge of what is part, but only of what is future. It is prefcience 
only, and not memory, that is fuppofed to be hoftile to liberty,, 
and hardly reconcileable to it. 

Yet I beliefe the diiEculty is perfectly equal in the one cafe and 
ia the other. I admit, that we cannot account for prefcience of 
the acftions of a free agent. But I maintain that we can as little 
account for memory of the pafl adlions of a free agent. If any 
tnan thinks he can prove that the a(5\ion8 of a free agent cannot 
be foreknown, he will find the fame arguments of equal force to 
prove that the paft afllona of a free agent cannot be remembered. 
It is true, that what is paft did certainly exift. It is no lefs true, 
that what is future will certainly exift. I know no reafoning from 
the conftitution of the agent, or fi'om his circumftances, that has 
not equal ftrength, whether it be applied tohis paft or to his fu- 
ture a<ftions. The paft was, but now is not. The future will be, 
but now is not. The prefent is equally connedled, or unconne(5l- 
ed with both. 

The only reafon why mert have apprehended (o great dlfparity in 
<;aies fo perfedtly like, I take to be this, That the faculty of me- 
mory in ourfclves convinces us from fadl, that it is not impofTible 
that an intelligent being, even a finite being, fhould have certain 
knowledge of paft alliens of free agents, without tracing diem; 


310 ESSAY III. from any thing neceflarily connedled with them. But having no 
prefcience in ourfelves correfponding to our memory of what is 
pad, we find great difficulty in admitting it to be poflible even in 
the Supreme Being. 

A faculty which we poflefs in fome degree, we eafily admit that 
the Supreme Being may poflefs in a more perfedl degree ; but a 
faculty, which has nothing correfponding to it in our conftitution, 
we will hardly allow to be poffible. We are fo conftituted as 
to have an intuitive knowledge of many things pafl: ; but we 
have no intuitive knowledge of the future. We might perhaps 
have been fo conftituted as to have an intuitive knowledge of the 
future, but not of the paft ; nor would this conftitution have 
been more unaccountable than the prefent, though it might be 
much more inconvenient. Had this been our conftitution, we 
Ihould have found no difiiculty in admitting that i!he Deity may 
know all things future, but very much in admitting his know- 
ledge of things that are paft. 

Our original faculties are all unaccountable. Of thefe memory 
is one. He only who made them, comprehends fully how they 
are made, and how they produce in us not only a conception, but 
a firm belief and aflTurance of things which it concerns us to 

Of Duration. 

FROM the principles laid down in the firft chapter of this Eflay, 
1 think it appears, that our notion of duration, as well as our 
belief of it, is got by the faculty of memory. It is eflential to 
every thing remembered that it be fomething which is paft ; and 
we cannot conceive a thing to be paft, without conceiving fome 


O F D U R A T I O N. 311 

duration, more or lefs,- between it and the prefent. As foon there- CHAP- IIT. 
fore as we remember any thing, we muft have both a notion and 
a belief of duration. It is neceflarily fuggefled by every operation 
of our memory ; and to that faculty it ought to be afcribed. ^ This 
is therefore a proper place to confider what is known concerning it. 

Duration, extenfion, and number, are the meafures of all things 
fubjedl to menfuration. When we apply them to finite things 
which are meafured by them, they feem of all things to be the 
moft diflindlly conceived, and mod withua the reach of human, 

Extenfion having three dimenfions, has an endlefs variety of 
modifications, capable of being accurately defined ; and their va- 
rious relations furnifli the human mind with its moft ample field 
of demonftrat^ve reafoning. Duration having only one dimenfion,, 
has fewer modifications ; but thefe are clearly underftood ; and 
their relations admit of meafure, proportion, and demonfirative 

Number is called difcrete quantity, becaufe it is compounded of 
units, which are all equal and fimilar, and it can only be divided 
into units. This is true, in fbme fenfe, even of fradions of unity,, 
to which we now commonly give the name of number. For in 
every fradlional number the unit i* fuppofed to be fubdivided in- 
to a certain number of equal parts, which are the units of that 
denomination, and the fra(5lions of that denomination are only 
divifible into units of the fame denomination. Duration and ex- 
tenfion are not difcrete, but continued quantity. They conCfl of 
parts perfectly fimilar, but divifible without end. 

In order to aid our conception of the magnitude and propor- 
tions of the various intervals of duration, we find it necefl^ary to 
give a name to fome known portion of it, fuch as an hour^ a day,, 
a year. Thefe we confider as units, and by the number of them 




chaJmii. contained in a larger interval, we form a tIiftin<fT: conception of 
its mar^nitude. A fimilar expedient we find nccefTary to give us 
a diftindl conception of the magnitudes and propoitions of things 
extended. Thus, number is found ncceffary, as a common mea- 
fure of extenfion and duration. But this perhaps is owing to the 
weakncfs of our underrtanding. It has even been difcovered, by 
the fagacity of Mathematicians, that this expedient does not in all 
cafes anfvver its intention. For tliere are proportions of continued 
quantity, which cannot be perfectly exprefled by numbers ; fuch 
as that between the diagonal and fide of a fquare, and many others. 

The parts of duration have to other parts of it the relations of 
prior and poflerior, and to the prefent they have the relations of 
part and future. The notion of pad is immediately fuggefled by 
memory, as has been before obferved. And when we have got 
the notions of prefent and part, and of prior and pofterior, we can 
from thefe frame a notion of the future ; for the future is that 
which is pofterior to the prefent. Nearnefs and diftance are rela- 
tions equally applicable to time and to place. Diltance in time, 
and diftance in place, are things fo different in their nature, and 
fo like in their relation, that it is difficult to determine whether 
the name of diflance is applied to both in the fame or an analo- 
gical fenfe. 

The extenfion of bodies which we perceive by our fenfes, leads 
us neceffarily to the conception and belief of a fpace which re- 
mains immoveable when the body is removed. And the duration 
of events which we remember leads us necelTarily to the concep- 
tion and belief of a duration, which would have gone on uniform- 
ly, though the event had never happened. 

Without fpace there can be nothing that is extended. And 
without time there can be nothing that hath duration. This I 
think undeniable. And yet we find that extenfion and duration 


O F D U R A T I O N. 313 

are not more clear and intelligible than fpace and time are dark and ^ ^^^"^; 
difBcult objecfls of contemplation. 

As there muft be fpace wherever any thing extended does or can 
exifl, and time when there is or can be any thing that has dura- 
tion, we can fet no bounds to either, even in our imagination. 
They defy all limitation. The one fwells in our conception to im- 
menfity, the other to eternity. 

An eternity paft is an objedl which we cannot comprehend ; but 
a beginning of time, unlefs we take it in a figurative fenfe, is a 
contradi(5tion. By a common figure of fpeech, we give the name 
of time to thofe motions and revolutions by which we meafure it, 
fuch as days and years. We can conceive a beginning of thefe 
fenfible meafures of time, and fay that there was a time when they 
were not, a time undiftinguifhed by any motion or change ; but 
to fay that there was a time before all time, is a contradidion. 

All limited duration is comprehended in time, and all limited 
extenfion in fpace. Thefe, in their capacious womb, contain all 
finite exigences, but are contained by none. Created things have 
their particular place in fpace, and their particular place in time ; 
but time is every where, and fpace at all times. They embrace 
each the other, and have that myfterious union which the fchool- 
men conceived between foul and body. The whole of each is in 
every part of the other. 

We are at a lofs to what category or clafs of things we ought 
to refer them. They are not beings, but rather the receptacles of 
every created being, without which it could not have had the pof- 
fibility of exiflence. Philofophers have endeavoured to reduce all 
the obje<5\s of human thought to thefe three clafles, of fubftances, 
modes, and relations. To which of them fhall we refer time, fpace 
and number, the moft common objedls of thought ? 

R r 'sir 


CHAP. IIL Sir Isaac Newton thought, that the Deity, by exifllng every 
where, and at all times, conftitutes time and fpace, immenfity and 
eternity. This probably fuggefted to his great friend Dr Clarke 
what he calls the argument a priori for the exiftence of an immenfe 
and eternal Being. Space and time, he thought, are only abflradt 
or partial conceptions of an immenfity and eternity, which forces 
itfelf upon our belief. And as immenfity and eternity are not 
fubftances, they mud be the attributes of a Being who is necefik- 
rily immenfe and eternal. Thefe are the fpeculations of men of 
fuperior genius. But whether they be as folid as they are fublime, 
or whether they be the wanderings of imagination in a region be- 
yond the limits of human underflanding, I am unable to deter- 

The fchoolmen made eternity to be a nuncjlans^ that is, a mo- 
ment of time that (lands flill. This was to put a fpoke into the 
wheel of time, and might give fatisfadlion to thofe who are to be 
fatisfied by words without meaning. But I can as eafily believe 
a circle to be a fquare as time to ftand flill.. 

Such paradoxes and riddles, if I may fo call them, men are in- 
voluntarily led into when they reafon about time and fpace, and 
attempt to comprehend their nature. They are probably things 
of which the human faculties give an imperfe6l and inadequate 
conception. Hence difficulties arife which we in vain attempt to 
overcome, and doubts which we are unable to refolve. Perhaps 
fbme faculty which we pofTefs not, is necefTary to remove the dark- 
nefs which hangs over them, and makes us fo apt to bewilder our- 
felves when we reafon about them. 



C H A P. IV. 

Of Identity. 

THE convidlion which every man has of his identity, as far 
back as his memory reaches, needs no aid of philofophy to 
ftrengthen it, and no philofophy can weaken it, without firft pro- 
ducing forae degree of infanity. 

The Philofopher, however, may very properly confider this con- 
vidlion as a phsenomenon of human nature worthy of his atten- 
tion. If he can difcover its caufe, an addition is made to his flock 
of knowledge : If not, it muft be held as a part of our original 
conflitution, or an effe(5l of that conftitution produced in a manner 
unknown to us. 

We may obferve, firft of all, that this conviction is indifpenfably 
neceffary to all exercife of reafon. The operations of reafon, whe- 
ther in adlion or in fpeculation, are made up of fucceffive parts. 
The antecedent are the foundation of the confequent, and without 
the convi(5lion that the antecedent have been feen or done by me, 
I could have no reafon to proceed to the confequent, in any fpe- 
culation, or in any adive proje<fl whatever. 

There can be no memory of what is paft without the convidion 
that we exifted at the time remembered. There may be good ar- 
guments to convince me that I exifted before the earlieft thing I 
can remember ; but to fuppofe that my memory reaches a moment 
farther back than my belief and convidion of my exiftence, is a 

The moment a man lofes this convidlion, as if he had drunk 
the water of Lethe, paft things are done away 5 and, in his own 

R r 2 belief, 



-■ * .. 1 



CHA RIV. ^ belief, he then begins to exift. Whatever was thought, or faid, 
or done, or fuffered, before that period, may belong to fome other 
perfon ; but he can never impute it to himfelf, or take any fubfe- 
quent ftep that fuppofes it to be his doing. 

From this it is evident, that we mufl have the convi(5lion of our 
own continued exiftence and identity, as Toon as we are capable of 
thinking hr doing any thing, on account of what we have thought, 
or done, or fuffered before ; that is, as foon as we are reafonable 

That we may form as diflincfl a notion as we are able of this 
phaenomenon of the human mind, it is proper to confider what is 
meant by identity in general, what by our own perfonal identity, 
and how wc are led into that invincible belief and convi(5tion which 
every man has of his own perfonal identity, as far as his memory 

Identity in general, I take to be a relation between a thing which 
is known to exift at one time, and a thing which is known to have 
exifted at another time. If you afk whether they are one and the 
fame, or two different things, every man of common fenfe under- 
ftands the meaning of your queftion perfe(5lly. Whence we may 
infer with certainty, that every man of common fenfe has a clear 
and diftindt notion of identity. 

If you aflc a definition of identity, I confefs I can give none ; it 
is too fimple a notion to admit of logical definition : I can fay it is 
a relation, but I cannot find words to exprefs the fpecific difference 
between this and other relations, though I am in no danger of con- 
founding it with any other. I can fay that diverfity is a contrary 
relation, and that fimilitude and diffimilitude are another couple 
of contrary relations, which every man eafily diftinguifhes in his 
conception from identity and diverfity .^ 


O F I D E N T I T Y. 317 

I fee evidently that identity fuppofes an uninterrupted continu- ^HAP.iv.^ 
ance of exiftence. That which hath ceafed to exift, cannot be the 
fame with that which afterwards begins to exifl: ; for this would 
be to fuppofe a being to exift after it ceafed to exift, and to have 
had exiftence before it was produced, which are manifeft contra- 
didions. Continued uninterrupted exiftence is therefore neceiTarily 
implied in identity. 

Hence we may infer, that identity cannot, in its proper fcnfe, 
be applied to our pains, our pleafures, our thoughts, or any opera- 
tion of our minds. The pain felt this day is not the fame indivi- 
dual pain which I felt yefterday, though they may be fimilar in 
kind and degree, and have the fame caufe. The fame may be faid 
of every feeling, and of every operation of mind : They are all 
fuccefTive in their nature like time itfelf, no two moments of which 
can be the fame moment. 

It is otherwife with the parts of abfolute fpace. They always 
are, and were, and will be the fame. So far, I think, we proceed 
upon clear ground in fixing the notion of identity in general. 

It is perhaps more difficult to afcertain with preclfion the mean- 
ing of perfonality ; but it is not neceflary in the prefent fubje<5l : 
It is fufficient for our purpofe to obferve, that all mankind place 
their perfonality in fomething that cannot be divided, or conlift of 
parts. A part of a perfon is a manifeft abfurdity. 

When a man lofes his eftate, his health, his ftrength, he is ftill 
the fame perfon, and has loft nothing of his perfonality. If he has 
a leg or an arm cut off, he is the fame perfon he was before. The 
amputated member is no part of his perfon, otherwife it v,'ould 
have a right to a part of his eftate, and be liable for a part of his 
engagements : It would be entitled to a fliare of his merit and de- 
merit, which is manifeftly abfurd. A perfon is fomething indivi- 
fible, and is what Leibnitz calls a mojiad. 

. My 


CHAP , tv.^ ]yiy perfonal identity, therefore, implies the continued exiftence 
of that indivifible thing which I call myfelf. Whatever this felf 
may be, it is fomething which thinks, and deliberates, and refolves, 
and adls, and fufTers. I am not thought, I am not a(5lion, I am 
not feeling ; I am fomething that thinks, and aifls, and fuffers. 
My thoughts, and a(5lions, and feelings, change every moment ; 
they have no continued, but a fuccelTive exiflence ; but that felf 
or /, to which they belong, is permanent, and has the fame relation 
to all the fucceeding thoughts, anions, and feelings, which I call 

Such are the notions that I have of my perfonal identity. But 
perhaps it may be faid, this may all be fancy without reality. 
How do you know ; what evidence have you, that there is fuch a 
permanent felf which has a claim to all the thoughts, adlions, and 
feelings, which you call yours ? 

To this I anfwer, that the proper evidence I have of all this is 
remembrance. I remember that twenty years ago I converfed 
with fuch a perfon ; I remember feveral things that paffed in that 
converfation ; my memory teftifies not only that this was done, 
but that it Was done by me who now remember it : If it was 
done by me, I muft have exifted at that time, and continued to 
exift from that time to the prefent : If the identical perfon whom 
I call myfelf, had not a part in that converfation, my memory is 
fallacious ; it gives a diftindl and pofitive teftimony of what is not 
true. Every man in his fenfes believes what he diftindlly remem- 
bers, and every thing he remembers convinces him that he exifted 
at the time remembered. 

Although memory gives the moft irrefiftible evidence of my be- 
ing the identical perfon that did fuch a thing, at fuch a time, I 
may have other good evidence of things which befel me, and 
which I do not remember : I know who bare me, and fuckled me, 
but 1 do not remember thefe events. 


O F I D E N T I T Y. 319 

It may here be obferved, (though the obfervatlon would have chap, iv.^ ' 
been unneceffary, if fome great Philofophers had not contradidled 
it) that it is not my remembering any adlion of mine that makes 
me to be the'perfon who did it. This remembrance makes me to 
know afluredly that I did it ; but I might have done it, though I 
did not remember it. That relation to me, which is exprefTed by 
faying that I did it, would be the fame, though I had not the lead 
remembrance of it. To fay that my remembering that I did fuch 
a thing, or, as fome chufe to exprefs it, my being confcious that I 
did it, makes me to have done it, appears to me as great an abfur- 
dity as it would be to fay, that my belief that the world was crea-^ 
ted, made it to be created. 

When we pafs judgment on the identity of other perfons befides 
ourfelves, we proceed upon other grounds, and determine from a 
variety of circumftances, which fometimes produce the firmeft af- 
furance, and fometimes leave room for doubt. The identity of 
perfons has often furniflied matter of ferious litigation before tri- 
bunals of juftice. But no man of a found mind ever doubted of 
his own identity, as far as he diftindlly remembered. 

The identity of a perfon is a perfedl identity ; wherever it is 
real, it admits of no degrees ; and it is impofTible that a perfon 
fhould be in part the fame, and in part different; becaufe a per- 
fon is a monady and is not divifible into parts. The evidence of 
identity in other perfons befides ourfelves, does indeed admit of all 
degrees, from what we account certainty, to the leaft degree of pro- 
bability. But dill it is true, that the fame perfon is perfecflly the 
fame, and cannot be fo in part, or in fome degree only. 

For this caufe, I have firft confidered perfonal identity, as that 
which is perfedl in its kind, and the natural meafure of that which; 
is imperfedl.. 




CHAP. IV. We probably at firfl: derive our notion of identity from that na- 
tural convi<5lion which every man has from the dawn of reafon of 
his own identity and continued exiftence. The operations of our 
minds are all fucceffive, and have no continued exiftence. But 
the thinking being has a continued exiftence, and we have an in- 
vincible belief, that it remains the fame when all its thoughts and 
operations change. 

Our judgments of the identity of obje<^s of fenfe feem to be 
formed much upon the fame grounds as our judgments of the 
identity of other perfons befides ourfelves. 

Wherever we obferve great fimilarity, we are apt to prefume 
identity, if no reafon appears to the contrary. Two objedls ever 
foi^ like, when they are perceived at the fame time, cannot be the 
fame : But if they are prefented to our fenfes at different times, we 
are apt to think them the fame, merely from their fimilarity. 

Whether this be a natural prejudice, or from whatever caufe it 
proceeds, it certainly appears in children from infancy ; and, when 
we grow up, it is confirmed in moft inftances by experience : For 
we rarely find two individuals of the fame fpecies that are not di- 
ftinguifhable by obvious differences. 

A man challenges a thief whom he finds in poffeffion of his * 
horfe or his watch, only on fimilarity. When the watchmaker 
fwears that he fold this watch to fuch a perfon, his teftimony is 
grounded on fimilarity. The teftimony of witneffes to the identi- 
ty of a perfon is commonly grounded on no other evidence. 

Thus it appears, that the evidence we have of our own identity, 
as far back as we remember, is totally of a different kind from the 
evidence we have of the identity of other perjbns, or of obje(f\s of 
fenfe. The fir ft is grounded on memory, and gives undoubted 
certainty. The laft is grounded on fimilarity, and on other cir- 


O F I D E N T I T Y. 321 

cumftances, which in many cafes are not fo decifive as to leave no CRAT. iv. 
room for doubt. 

It may likewife be obferved, that the identity of obje(5ls of fenfe 
is never perfedl. All bodies, as they confifl of innumerable parts 
that may be disjoined from them by a great variety of caufes, are 
fubjedl to continual changes of their fubftance, increafing, dimi- 
nifhing, changing infenfibly. When fuch alterations are gradual, 
becaufe language could not afford a different name for every dif- 
ferent (late of fuch a changeable being, it retains the fame name, 
and is confidered as the fame thing. Thus we fay of an old regi- 
ment, that it did fuch a thing a century ago, though there now is 
not a man alive who then belonged to it. We fay a tree is the 
fame in the feed-bed and in the foreft. A (hip of war, which has 
fucceffively changed her anchors, her tackle, her fails, her maftsf 
her planks, and her timbers, while flie keeps the fame name, is 
the fame. 

The identity therefore which we afcribe to bodies, whether na- 
tural or artificial, is not perfect identity ; it is rather fomething, 
which, for the^conveniency of fpeech, we call identity. It admits 
of a great change of the fubjedl, providing the change be gradual, 
fometimes even of a total change. And the changes which in 
common language are made confident with identity, differ from 
thofe that are thought to deftroy it, not in kind, but in number 
and degree. It has no fixed nature when applied to bodies ; and 
queftions about the identity of a body are very often quellions 
about words. But identity, when applied to perfons, has no am- 
biguity, and admits not of degrees, or of more and lefs : It is the 
foundation of all rights and obligations, and of all accountable- 
nefs ; and the notion of it is fixed and precife. 

S r CHAP. 


C II A P. V. 

Mr Locke's Account of the Or'tgiu of our Ideas^ and particultirly of the 

Idea of Duration. 

IT was a very laudable attempt of Mr Locke " to enquire into 
" the original of thofe ideas, notions, or whatever you pleafe 
•' to call them, which a man obferves^ and is confcious to himfelf 
" he has in his mind, and the ways whereby the underftanding 
" comes to be furniflied with them." No man was better quali- 
fied for, this inveftigation ; and I believe no man ever engaged in it 
with a more fincere love of truth. 

His fuccefs, though great, would, I apprehend, have been great- 
er, if he had not too early formed a fyftem or hypothefis upon 
this fubjed, without all the caution and patient indudion, which 
is neceflary in drawing general conclufions from fa<5ls. 

The fum of his dodrine I take to be this, " That all our ideas 
or notions may be reduced to two clafles, the fimple and the com- 
plex : That the fimple are purely the work of Nature, the under- 
flanding being merely pafllve in receiving them : That they arc all 
fuggefted by two powers of the mind, to wit, fenfation and reflec- 
tion ; and that they are the materials of all our knowledge. That 
the other clafs of complex ideas are formed by the under {landing 
itfelf, which being once llored with fimple ideas of fenfation and 
reflexion, has the power to repeat, to compare, and to combine them 
even to an almofl: infinite variety, and fo can make at pleafurc new 
complex ideas : But that it is not in the power of the mod exalt- 
ed wit, or enlarged vmderllanding, by any quicknefs or variety of 
thought, to invent or frame one new fimple idea in the mind, not 
taken in by the two ways before mentioned. Tiiat as our power 



over the material world reaches only to the compounding, dividing, CHAP. V.^ 

and putting together, in various forms, the matter which God has 

made, but reaches not to the produdlion or annihilation of a fingle 

atom ; fo we may, compare, and abflraifl the original 

and fimple ideas which Nature has given us ; but are unable to fa- 

fhion in our underftanding any fimple idea, not received in by our 

fenfes from external objecfts, o^ by refledlion from the operations 

of our own mind about them." 

This account of the origin of all our ideas is adopted by Bifhop 
Berkeley and Mr Hume ; but fome very ingenious Philofophers, 
who have a high efteem of Locke's Eflay, are diflatisfied with it. 

Dr HuTCHESON of Glafgow, in his Enquiry into the Ideas of 
Beauty and Virtue, has endeavoured to fhow that thefe are original 
and fimple ideas, furnifhed by original powers, which he calls the 
fenfe of beauty and th« mm-al fenfc. 

Dr Price, in his Review of the Principal Queflions and Diffi- 
culties in Morals, has obferved very juftly, that if we take the 
words fcTrfufron And refleBion, as Mr Locke has defined them in the 
beginning of his" excellent Efliay, it wijl be impoffibfe to derive 
fome of the mod important of our ideas from them ; and that, by 
the underftanding, that is by our judging and reafoning power, wc 
are furniihed with many fimple and original notions. 

Mr Locke fays, that, by rcfledion, he would be underftood to 
mean " the notice which the mind takes of its own operations, 
" and the manner of them." This, I think, we commonly call con- 
fcioufnefs ; from which, indeed, we derive all the notions we have 
of the operations of our own minds; and he often fpdaks of the 
operations of our own minds, as the only obj6dls of reiiedion. 

When refle(flion is taken in this confined fenfe, to fay, that all 
our ideas are ideas either of fenfation or reflexion, is to fay, that 

S f 2 every 


CHA P. V. every thing we can conceive is either fome objedl of fenfe, or Tome 
operation of our own minds, which is far from being true. 

But the word refledlion is commonly ufed in a much more ex- 
tenfive fenfe; it is applied to m^ny operations of the mind, with 
more propriety than to that of confcioufnefs. \ye reflect, wheh 
we remember, or call to mind what is paft, and furvey it with at- 
tention. We refleft, when we define, when we diftinguifh, when 
we judge, when we reafon, whether about things material or in- 

When refledlion is taken in this fenfe, which is more common, 
and therefore. more proper than the fenfe which Mr Locke has put 
upon it, it may be juflly faid to be the only fourcc of all our di- 
flinxfl and accurate notions of things. For, although our firft no- 
tions of material things are got by the external fen fes, and our firfl 
notions of the operations of our own minds by confcioufnefs, 
thefe firft notions are neither fimple nor clear. Our fenfes and our 
confcioufnefs are continually fliifting from one object to another ; 
their operations are tranfient and-momentary, and leave no diftindl 
notion of, their objects, until they are recalled by memory, exa:-. 
mined with attention, and compai:ed with other things. 

This refle(5lion is not one power of the mind ; it comprehends 
many ; fuch as recolle(5lion, attention, diftinguiihing, comparing, 
judging. By thefe powers our minds are furnifhed not only with 
many fimple and original notions, but with all our notions, which 
are accurate and well defined, and which, alone are the proper ma-, 
terials of reafoning. Many of thefe, are neither notions of the ob- 
ie^ls of fenfe, nor of the operations of our own minds, and there- 
fore neither ideas of fenfation, nor of reflecflion, in the fenfe that 
Mr Locke gives to reiiedion. But if any one chufes to call them 
ideas of refledtion, taking the word in the more common and pro- 
per fenfe, I have no objedlion. „.„,,' 



Mr Locke feems to me to have ufed the word refledlion feme- CHAP, v.^ 
limes in that limited fenfe which he has given to it in the definition 
before mentioned, and fometimes to have fallen unawares into the 
common fenfe of the word ; and by this ambiguity his account of 
the origin of our ideas is darkened and perplexed. 

Having premifed thefe things in general of Mr Locke's theory 
of the origin of our ideas or notions, I proceed to fome obfcrva- 
tions on his account of the idea of duration. / 

" Refied;ion, he fays, upon the train of ideas, which appear 
" one after another in our minds, is that which fumifhes us with 
" the idea of fucceflion ; and the diftance between any two parts 
" of that fucceflion, is that we call duration." 

If it be meant that the idea of fucceflion is prior to that of du- 
ration, either in time, or in the order of nature, this, I think, is- 
impofllble, becaufe fucceflion, as Dr Price juftly obferves, pre- 
fuppofes duration, and can in no fenfe be prior to it ; and there- 
fore it would be more proper to derive the idea of fucceflion from 
that of. duration. 

But how do we get the idea of fucceflion ? It is, fays he, by re- 
fledling upon the train of Ideas, which appear one after another in 
our minds. 

Reflecllng upon the train of ideas can be nothing but remem- 
bering it, and giving attention to what our memory tefl:lfies con- 
cerning it'; for if we did not remember it, we could not have a 
thought abovit it. So that it is evident that this refledlion includes 
remembrance, without which there could be no refle(5tion on what 
is pafl:, and confequently no idea of fucceflion. 

It may here be obferved, that if we fpeak fl:ridtly and philofo- 
phically, no kind of fucceirion can be an object either of the 



CHAP.v. fenfes, or of confcioufnefs ; becaufe the operations of both, are 
confined to the prefent point of time, and there can be no fuccefiion 
in a point of time ; and on that account the motion of a body, 
which is a fucceffive change of place, could not be obferved by 
the fenfes alone without the aid of memory. 

As this obfervation feems to contradid the common fenfe and 
common language of mankind, when they affirm that they fee a 
body move, and hold motion to be an objedl of the fenfes, it is 
proper to take notice, that this contradidlion between the Philofo- 
pher and the vulgar is apparent only, and not real. It arifes from 
this, that Philofophers and the vulgar differ in the meaning they 
put upon what is called the prefent time, and are thereby led to 
make a different limit between fenfe and memory. 

Philofophers give the name of th^e prefent to that indivifible point 
of time, which divides the future from the pall : But the vulgar 
find it more convenient in the affairs of life, to give the name of 
prefent to a portion of time, which extends more or lefs, according 
to circumflances, into the part or the future. Hence we fay, the 
prefent hour, the prefent year, the prefent century, though one 
point only of thefe periods can be prefent in the philofophical fenfe. 

It has been obferved by Grammarians, that the prefent tenfe in 
verbs is not confined to an indivifible point of time, but is fo far 
extended as to have a beginning, a middle, and an end ; and that 
in the moft copious and accurate languages, thefe different parts of 
the prefent are diftinguilhed by different forms of the verb. 

As the purpofes of converfation make it convenient to extend 
what is called the prefent, the fame reafon leads men to extend the 
j)rovince of fenfe, and to carry its limit as far back as they carry 
the prefent. Thus a man may fay, I faw fuch a perfon jufl now; 
it would be ridiculous to find fault with this way of fpeaking, be- 
caufe it is authorifed by cuftom, and has a diftinifl meaning : But 



if we fpeak philofophically, the fenfes do not teflify what we faw, CHA P. V.^ 
but only ,what we fee ; what I faw lafl moment I confider as 
the teftimony of fenfe, though it is now only the teftimony of 
memory. - 

There is no neceflity in common life of dividing accurately the 
provinces of fenfe and of memory ; and therefore vsre aflign to fenfe, 
not an indivifible point of time, but that fmall portion of time 
which we call the prefent, which has a beginning, a middle, and 
an end. 

Hence it is eafy to fee, that though in common language we fpeak 
with perfed propriety and truth, when we fay, that we fee a body 
move, and that motion is an objedl of fenfe, yet when as Philofo- 
phers we diftinguifli accurately the province of fenfe from that of 
memory, we can no more fee what is pad, though but a moment 
ago, than we can remember what is prefent; fo that fpeaking phi- 
lofophically, it is only by the aid of memory that we difcern mo- 
lion, or any fucceflion whatfoever : We fee the prefent place of the 
body ; we remember the fucceflive advance it made to that place : 
The firll can then only give us a conception of motion, when joined 
to the lart. 

Having confidered the account given by Mr Locke, of the idea 
of fucceffion, we ihall next confider how, from the idea of fuccef- 
fion, he derives the idea of duration. 

*' The dlftance, he fays, between any parts of that fucceflion, or 
" between the appearance of any two ideas in our minds, is that 
" we call duration." 

To conceive this the more diftlndlly, let us call the diflance be- 
tween an idea and that which immediately fucceeds it, one elemcnr 
of duration ; the dillance between an idea and the fecond that 
fucceeds it, two elements, and fo on : If ten fuch elements make 



^^^.^' ^ '- > '^^''^tio^i then one mufl make duration, otherwile duration mull be 
made up of parts that have no duration, which is Impoflible. 

For, fuppofe a fuccefllon of as many ideas as you pleafe, if none 
of thefe ideas have duration, nor any interval of duration be be- 
tween one and another, then it is perfe<flly evident there can be no 
interval of duration between the firil and the la ft, how great foever 
their number be. I conclude therefore, that there mufl: be dura- 
tion in every firigle interval or element of which the whole duration 
is made up. Nothing indeed is more certain than that every ele- 
mentary part of duration muft: have duration, as every elementary 
part of extenfion mufl; have extenfion. 

Now it mufl: be obferved, that in thefe elements of duration, or 
fingle intervals of fucceflive ideas, there is no fuccelTion of ideas, 
yet we muft conceive them to have duration ; whence we may 
conclude with certainty, that there is a conception of duration, 
where there is no fuccefllon of ideas in the mind. 

"We may meafure duration by the fuccefllon of thoughts In the 
mind, as we meafure length by inches or feet ; but the notion or 
idea of duration mufl: be antecedent to the menfuratlon of it, as 
the notion of length is antecedent to its being meafured. 

Mr Locke draws fome conclufions from his account of the idea 
of duration, which may ferve as a touchftone to difcover how far 
it is genuine. One is, that if it were poflible for awaking man to 
keep only one idea in his mind without variation, or the fuccefllon 
of others, he would have no perception of duration at all; and the 
moment he began to have this idea, would feem to have no diftance 
from the moment he ceafed to have it. 

Now that one idea fliould feem to have no duration, and that a 
multiplication of that no duration fliould feem to have duration, ap- 
pears to me as impofllble as that the multiplication of nothing fliould 
produce fomething. 



Another conclufion which the author draws from this theory is, CHAP. v. 
that the fame period of duration appears long to us, when the fuc- 
ceffion of ideas in our mind is quick, and Ihort when the fuccef- 
fion is flow. 

There can be no doubt but the fame length of duration appears 
in fome circumflances much longer than in others ; the time ap- 
pears long when a man \& impatient under any pain or diflrefs, or 
when he is eager in the expe(5lation of fome happinefs : On the 
other hand, when he is pleafed and happy in agreeable converfa- 
tion, or delighted with a variety of agreeable objeds that ftrike his 
fenfes, or his imagination, time flies away, and appears flaort. 

According to Mr Locke's theory, in the firfl of thefe cafes, the 
fucceflion of ideas is very quick, and in the lafl very flow : I am 
rather inclined to think that the very contrary is the truth. When 
a man is racked with pain, or with expedlation, he can hardly 
think of any thing but his diflrefs ; and the more his mind is oc- 
cupied by that fole objedl, the longer the time appears. On the 
other hand, when he is entertained with cheerful inufic, with 
lively converfation, and briflc fallies of wit, there feems to be the 
quickeft fucceflion of ideas, but the time appears fliorteft. 

I have heard a military officer, a man of candour and obfervation, 
fay, that the time he was engaged in hot adlion always appeared to 
him much fliorter than it really was. Yet I think it cannot be 
fuppofed, that the fucceflion of ideas was then flower than ufual. 

If the idea of duration were got merely by the fucceflion of ideas 
in our minds, that fucceflion muft: to ourfelves appear equally 
quick at all times, becaufe the only meafure of duration is the 
number of fucceeding ideas ; but I believe every man capable of 
refledlion will be fenfible, that at one time his thoughts come flowly 
and heavily, and at another time have a much quicker and livelier 

T t ' I 


CHAP. V. I know of no ideas or notions that have a better claim to be ac- 
counted fimple and original than thofe of fpace and time. It is 
eflential both to fpace and time to be made up of parts, but every 
part is fimilar to the whole, and of the fame nature. Different 
parts of fpace, as it has three dimenfions, may differ both in figure 
and in magnitude ; but time having only one dimenfion, its parts 
can differ only in magnitude ; and, as it is one of the fimplefl; ob- 
jeds of thought, the conception of it muft be purely the effedl of 
our conftitution, and given us by fome original power of the mind. 

The fenfe of feeing, by itfelf, gives us the conception and be- 
lief of only two dimenfions of extenfion, but the fenfe of touch 
difcovers three ; and reafon, from the contemplation of finite ex- 
tended things, leads us neceffarily to the belief of an immenfity 
that contains them. In like manner, memory gives us the con- 
ception and belief of finite intervals of duration. From the con- 
templation of thefe, reafon leads us neceffarily to the belief of an 
eternity, which comprehends all things that have a beginning and 
end. Our conceptions, both of fpace and time, are probably par- 
tial and inadequate, and therefore we are apt to lofe ourfelves, and 
to be embarraffed in our reafonings about them. 

Our underftanding is no lefs puzzled when we confider the mi- 
nutefl parts of time and fpace than when we confider the whole. 
We are forced to acknowledge, that in their nature they are divi- 
fible without end or limit ; but there are limits beyond which our 
faculties can divide neither the one nor the other. 

It may be determined by experiment, what is the leaft angle 
under which an objedt may be difcerned by the eye, and what is 
the leafl interval of duration that may be difcerned by the ear. I 
believe thefe may be different in different perfons : But furely 
there is a limit which no man can exceed : And what our faculties 
can no longer divide is flill divifible in itfelf, and, by beings of 
fuperior pcrfedlion, may be divided into thoufands of parts. 



I have reafbn to believe, that a good eye in the prime of life may CHAP, v, 
fee an objedl under an angle not exceeding half a minute of a de- 
gree, and I believe there are fome human eyes ftill more perfed:. 
But even this degree of perfection will appear great, if we confider 
how fmall a part of the retina of the eye it muft be which fub- 
tends an angle of half a minute. 

Suppoling the diftance between the centre of the eye and the 
retina to be fix or feven tenths of an inch, the fubtenfe of an angle 
of half a minute to that radius, or the breadth of the image of an 
objedl feen under that angle, will not be above the ten thoufandth 
part of an inch. This flaews fuch a wonderful degree of accuracy 
in the refrading power of a good eye, that a pencil of rays coming 
from one point of the objecfl fhall meet in one point of the retina, 
fo as not to deviate from that point the ten thoufandth part of an 
inch. It fhews, likewife, that fuch a motion of an obje(5l as makes 
its image on the retina to move the ten thoufandth part of an inch, 
is difcernible by the mind. 

In order to judge to what degree of accuracy we can meafure 
fhort intervals of time, it may be obferved, that one who has given 
attention to the motion of a Second pendulum, will be able to beat 
feconds for a minute with a very fmall error. When he continues 
this exercife long, as for five or ten minutes, he is apt to err, more 
even than in proportion to the time, for this reafon, as I apprehend, 
that it is difiicult to attend long to the moments as they pafs, 
without wandering after fome other obje<5l of thought. 

I have found, by fome experiments, that a man may beat fe- 
conds for one minute, without erring above one fecond in the whole 
fixty ; and I doubt not but by long practice he might do it ftill 
more accurately. From this I think it follows, that the fixtieth 
part of a fecond of time is difcernible by the human mind. 

T t 2 CHAP. 




<y -Mr Locke's Account of our perfonal Identity. 

IN a long chapter upon identity and dlverfity, Mr Locke has 
made many ingenious and juft obfervations, and fome which 
I think cannot be defended. I fhall only take notice of the ac- 
count he gives of our own perfonal identity. His dodlrine upon 
this fubjedl has been cenfured by Bifhop Butler, in a Ihort eflay 
fubjoined to his Analogy, with whofe fentiments I perfedlly agree. 

Identity, as was obferved chap. 4. of this Eflay, fuppofes the 
continued exiftence of the being of which it is affirmed, and 
therefore can be applied only to things which have a continued 
exiftence. While any being continues to exift, it is the fame be- 
ing ; but two beings which have a different beginning or a diffe- 
rent ending of their exiftence, cannot poflibly be the fame. To 
this I think Mr Locke agrees. 

He obferves very juftly, that to know what Is meant by the 
fame perfon, we muft confider what the word per/on ftands for ; 
and he defines a perfon to be an intelligent being, endowed with 
reafon and with confcioufnefs, which laft he thinks infeparable 
from thought. 

From this definition of a perfon, it muft neceflarily follow, that 
while the intelligent being continues to exift and to be intelligent, 
it muft be the fame perfon. To fay that the intelligent being is 
the perfon, and yet that the perfon ceafes to exift, while the intel- 
ligent being continues, or that the perfon continues while the In- 
telligent being ceafes to exift, is to my apprehenfion a manifeft 



One would think that the definition of a perfon fhould perfedlly CHAP. VI. 
afcertain the nature of perfonal identity, or wherein ic confifts, 
though it might ftill be a queftion how we come to know and be 
aflured of our perfonal identity. 

Mr Locke tells us however, " that perfonal identity, that is, the 
" famenefs of a rational being, confifts in confcioufnefs alone, ^nd, 
" as far as this confcioufnefs can be extended backwards, to any 
" paft a(5lion or thought, fo far reaches the identity of that per- 
" fon. So that whatever hath the confcioufnefs of prefent and 
" paft a<flions, is the fame perfon to whom they belong." 

This dodrine hath fome ftrange confequences, which the author 
was aware of. Such as, that if the fame confcioufnefs can be 
transferred from one intelligent being to another, which he thinks 
we cannot flaew to be impofilble, then two or twenty intelligent 
beings may be the fame perfon. And if the intelligent being 
may lofe the confcioufnefs of the adlions done by him, which 
furely is poffible, then he is not the perfon that did thofe a(5lions ; 
fo that one intelligent being may be two or twenty different per- 
fons, if he fhall fo often lofe the confcioufnefs of his former adlions. 

There is another confequence of this dodVrine, which follows no 
lefs neceflarily, though Mr Locke probably did not fee it. It is, 
that a man may be, and at the fame time not be, the perfon that 
did a particular adion. 

Suppofe a brave officer to have been flogged when a boy at 
fchool, for robbing an orchard, to have taken a ftandard from the 
enemy in his firft campaign, and to have been made a general in 
advanced life : Suppofe alfo, which muft be admitted to be pof- 
fible, that when he took the ftandard, he was confcious of his 
having been flogged at fchool, and that when made a general he 
was confcious of his taking the ftandard, but had abfolutely loft 
the confcioufnefs of his flogging. . 




CHAP. VI. Thefe things being fuppofed, it follows, from Mr Locke's 
dodrine, that he who was flogged at fchool is the fame perfon who 
took the flandard, and that he who took the ftandard is the fame 
perfon who was made a general. Whence it follows, if there be 
any truth in logic, that the general is the fame perfon with him 
who was flogged at fchool. But the general's confcioufnefs does 
not reach fo far back as his flogging, therefore, according to Mr 

s^ Locke's dodlrine, he is not the perfon who was flogged. There- 

fore the general is, and at the fame time is not the fame perfon 
with him who was flogged at fchool. 

Leaving the confequences of this dodrine to thofe who have 
leifure to trace them, we may obferve, with regard to the doc- 
trine itfelf, 

F'trjl^ That Mr Locke attributes to confcioufnefs the convi(flion 
we have of our pafl adlions, as if a man may now be confcious of 
what he did twenty years ago. It is impoflible to underfland the 
meaning of this, unlefs by confcioufnefs be meant memory, the 
only faculty by which we have an immediate knowledge of our 
paft adions. 

Sometimes, in popular difcourfe, a man fays he is confcious that 
he did fuch a thing, meaning that he diftincflly remembers that he 
did it. It is unneceflary, in common difcourfe, to fix accurately 
the limits between confcioufnefs and memory. This was former- 
ly fliewn to be the cafe with regard to fenfe and memory : And 
therefore difl;in(5l remembrance is fometimes called fenfe, fome- 
times confcioufnefs, without any inconvenience. 

But this ought to be avoided in philofophy, otherwife we con- 
found the different powers of the mind, and afcribe to one what 
really belongs to another. If a man can be confcious of what he 
did twenty years or twenty minutes ago, there is no ufe for me- 
mory, nor ought we to allow that there is any fuch faculty. The 



faculties of confcioufnefs and memory are chiefly difllnguifhed by >. ' 'j 
this, that the firft is an immediate knowledge of the prefent, the 
fecond an immediate knowledge of the paft. 

When, therefore, Mr Locke's notion of perfonal identity is 
properly exprelTed, it is, that perfonal identity confifts in diftinfl 
remembrance : For, even in the popular fenfe, to fay that I am 
confcious of a paft adlion, means nothing elfe than that I diftindlly 
remember that I did it. 

Secondly^ It may be obferved, that, in this dodlrine, not only is 
confcioufnefs confounded with memory, but, which is ftill more 
ftrange, perfonal identity is confounded with the evidence which 
we have of our perfonal identity. 

It is very true, that my remembrance that I did fuch a thing is 
the evidence I have that I am the identical perfon who did it. 
And this, I am apt to think, Mr Locke meant: But to fay that 
my remembrance that I did fuch a thing, or my confcioufnefs, 
makes me the perfon who did it, is, in my apprehenfion, an ab- 
furdity too grofs to be entertained by any man who attends to the 
meaning of it : For it is to attribute to memory or confcioufnefs a 
ftrange magical power of producing its objecjt, though that obje<5l 
muft have exifted before the memory or confcioufnefs which pro- 
duced it. 

Confcioufnefs is the teftimony of one faculty ; memory is the ^ 
teftimony of another faculty : And to fay that the teftimony is P 
the caufe of the thing teftified, this furely is abfurd, if any thing 
be, and could not have been faid by Mr Locke, if he had not con- 
founded the teftimony with the thing teftified. 

When a horfe that was ftolen is found and claimed by the owner, 
the only evidence he can have, or that a judge or witnefles can 
have that this is the very identical horfe which was his property, 



CHAF, VI. is fimilitude. But would it not be ridiculous from this to infef 
that the identity of a horfe confifts in fimilitude only ? The only 
evidence I have that I am the identical perfon vvho did fuch adions 
is, that I remember dlftindly I did them; or, as Mr Locke ex- 
prefles it, I am confcious I did them. To infer from this, that 
perfonal identity confifts in confcioufnefs, is an argument, which, 
if it had any force, would prove the identity of a ftolen horfe to 
confift folely in fimilitude. 

Thirdly, Is it not ftrange that the famenefs or identity of a per- 
lon fhould confift in a thing which is continually changing, and is 
not any two minutes the fame ? 

Our confcioufnefs, our memory, and every operation of the 
mind, are ftill flowing like the water of a river, or like time itfelf. 
The confcioufnefs I have this moment, can no more be the fame 
confcioufnefs I had laft moment, than this moment can be the 
laft moment. Identity can only be affirmed of things which have 
a continued exiftence. Confcioufnefs, and every kind of thought, 
is tranfient and momentary, and has no continued exiftence ; and 
therefore, if perfonal identity confifted in confcioufnefs, it would 
certainly follow, that no man is the fame perfon any two moments 
of his life; and as the right and juftice of reward and punifhment 
is founded on perfonal identity, no man could be refponfible for 
his a(flions. 

But though I take this to be the unavoidable confequence of Mr 
Locke's dodlrine concerning perfonal identity, and though fome 
perfons may have liked the dodlrine the better on this account, I am 
far from imputing any thing of this kind to Mr Locke. He was 
too good a man not to have rejedled with abhorrence a do(5lrine 
which he believed to draw this confequence after it. 

Fourthly^ There are many exprefllons ufed by Mr Locke in 
fpeaking of perfonal identity, which to me are altogether unintel- 


ligible, iinlefs we fuppofe that he confounded that famenefs or iden- 
tity, which we afcribe to an individual, with the identity which in 
common difcourfe is ofcen afcribed to many individuals of the fame 

When we fay that pain and pleafure, confcioufnefs and memory, 
are the fame in all men, this famenefs can only mean fimilarity, or 
famenefs of kind ; but that the pain of one man can be the dime 
individual pain with that of another man, is no lefs impoffible than 
that one man Ihould be another man ; the pain felt by me yefter- 
day, can no more be the pain I feel to-day, than yefterday can be 
this day ; and the fame thing may be faid of every paffion and of 
every operation of the mind : The fame kind or fpecies of operation 
may be in different men, or in the fame man at different times ; 
but it is impoffible that the fame individual operation fliould be in 
different men, or in the fame man at different times. 

When Mr Locke therefore fpeaks of " the fame confcioufnefs 
" being continued through a fucceflion of different fubflances ;" 
when he fpeaks of " repeating the idea of a paft adion, with the 
" fame confcioufnefs we had of it at the firft," and of " the fame 
" confcioufnefs extending to a<5lions paft and to come;" thefe ex- 
preffions are to me unintelligible, unlefs he means not the fame in- 
dividual confcioufnefs, but a confcioufnefs that is fimilar, or of the 
fame kind. 

If our perfonal identity conflfts in confcioufnefs, as this confci- 
oufnefs cannot be the fame individually any two moments, but 
only of the fame kind, it would follow, that we are not for any two 
moments the fame individual perfbns, but the fame kind of perfons. 

As our confcioufnefs fomctimes ccafes to exifl, as in found fleep, 
our perfonal identity muft ceafe with it. Mr Locke allows, that the 
fame thing cannot have two beginnings of exiftence, fo that our 
identity would be irrecoverably gone every time we ceafe to think, 
if it was but for a moment. 

U u CHAP. 



'Theories concerti'uig Memory. 

THE common theory of ideas, that is of images in the brain 
or in the mind, of all the obje<3:s of thought, has been very 
generally applied to account for the faculties of memory and ima- 
gination, as well as that of perception by the fenfes. 

The fentiments of the Peripatetics are exprefled by Alexander 
Aphrodisiensis, one of the earlieft Greek Commentators on 
Aristotle, in thefe words, as they are tranflated by Mr Harris 
in his Hermes, " Now what fancy or imagination is, we may 
" explain as follows : We may conceive to be formed within us, 
" from the operations of our fenfes about fenfible objedls, fome 
" imprellion, as it were, or pi(5lure in our original fenforium, be- 
*' ing a reli<5t of that motion caufed within us by the external ob- 
" jecl ; a relidl, which when the external obje<5l is no longer pre- 
" fent, remains, and is flill preferved, being as it were its image, 
" and which, by being thus preferved, becomes the caufe of our 
" having memory : Now fuch a fort of reli<fl, and as it were im- 
" preflion, they call fancy or imagination." 

Another paiTage from Alcinous of the do&rines of Plato, 
chap. 4. fiiews the agreement of the ancient Platonifts and Peripa- 
tetics in this theory, " When the form or type of things is im- 
" printed on the mind by the organs of the fenfes, and fo imprinted 
" as not to be deleted by time, but preferved firm and lafling, its 
*' prefervation is called memory." 

Upon this principle Aristotle imputes the fhortncfs of me- 
mory in children to this caufe, that their brain is too moifl and 



foft to retain impreflions made upon it : And the defedl of memory CHAP, vir . 
in old men he imputes, on the contrary, to the hardnefs and rigidity 
of the brain, which hinders its receiving any durable impreffion. 

This ancient theory of the caufe of memory is defedive in two 
refpedls : Firji^ If the caufe affigned did really exift, it by no means 
accounts for the phsenomenon : And.,fecondly^ There is no evidence, 
nor even probability, that that caufe exifts. 

It is probable, that in perception fome impreiHon is made upon 
the brain as well as upon the organ and nerves, becaufe all the 
nerves terminate in the brain, and becaufe diforders and hurts of 
the brain are found to affecl our powers of perception when the ex- 
ternal organ and nerve are found j but we are totally ignorant of 
the nature of this impreffion upon the brain : It can have no re- 
femblance to the obje£l perceived, nor does it in any degree account 
for that fenfation and perception which are confequent upon it. 
Thefe things have been argued in the fecond Eflay, and fhall now 
be taken for granted, to prevent repetition. 

If the impreffion upon the brain be infufficient to account for 
the perception of objefls that are prefent, it can as little account 
for the memory of thofe that are pad. 

So that if it were certain, that the impreffions made on the 
brain in perception remain as long as there is any memory of the 
objedl ; all that could be inferred from this is, that, by the laws 
of Nature, there is a connedlion eftablifhed between that impref- 
fion, and the remembrance of that objecft. But how the impref- 
fion contributes to this remembrance, we ihould be quite ignorant ; 
it being impoffible to difcover how thought of any kind Ihould be 
produced, by an impreffion on the brain, or upon any part of the body. 

To fay that this impreffion is memory, is abfurd, if underftood 
literally. If it is only meant that it is the caufe of memory, it 

U u 2 ought 



CHAF. VII . ought to be fliovvn how it produces this 'effedl, otherwife mepaory 
remains as unaccountable as before. 

If a Philofopher fliould undertake to account for the force of 
gunpowder, in the difcharge of a muflcet, and then tell us grave- 
ly, that the caufe of this pha:noment>n is the drawing of the trig- 
ger, we Ihoulcl not be much wifer by this account. As little are 
we infl;ru6led in the caufe of memory, by being told that it is 
caufed by a certain impreflion on the brain. For fuppofing, that 
impreflion on the brain were as neceflary to memory as th€ draw- 
ing of the trigger is to the difcharge of the muflcet, we are ftill 
as ignorant as we were how memory is produced ; fo that, if the 
caufe of memory, affigned by this theory, did really exifl, it does 
not in any degree accouat fpr memory. 

Another defedl in this theory is, that there is no evidence, nor 
probability that the caufe affigned does exift ; that is, that the im- 
])reffion made xipon the brain in perception remains after the ob- 
jedl is removed. 

That impreffion, whatever be its nature, is caufed by the irapref- 
fion made by the objecfl upon the organ of {enfcy and upon the 
nerve. Philofophers fuppofe, without any evidence, that when the 
objedl is removed, and the impreffion upon the organ and nerve 
ceafes, the impreffion upon the brain continues, and is permanent; 
that is, that when the caufe is removed the effe<fl continues. The 
brain furely does not appear more fitted to retain an impreffion 
than the organ and nerve. 

But granting that the impreffion upon the brain continues after 
its caufe is removed, its cffecls ought to continue while it conti- 
nues ; that is, the fenfation and perception fhould be as permanent 
as the impreffion upon the brain, which is fuppofed to be their 
caufe. But Kere again the Philofopher makes a fecond fuppofition, 



with as little evidence, but of a contrary nature, to wit, that, CHAP. VIL 
while the caufe remains, the effcd ceafcs. 

If this fhould be granted alfo, a third mufl be made, That the 
fame caufe, which at firft produced fenfation and perception, does 
afterwards produce memory; an operation effentially diiferent, 
both from fenfation and perception. 

A fourth fuppofition mufl be made, That this caufe, though it 
be permanent, does not produce its effedl at all times j it mufl be 
like an infcrlption which is fometimes covered with rubbifli, and 
on other occafions made legible : For the memory of things is often 
interrupted for a long time, and circumflances bring to our recol- 
ledlion what had been long forgot. After all, many things are re- 
membered which were never perceived by the fcnfes, being no ob- 
je<5ls of fenfe, and therefore which could make no imprelTion upoa 
the brain" by means of the fenfes.- 

Thus, when Philofophers have piled one fuppofition upon an- 
other, as the giants piled the mountains, in order to fcale the hea- 
vens, all is to no purpole, memory remains unaccountable j and 
we know a« little how we remember things paft, as how we are 
confcious of the prefent. 

But here it is proper to obferve, that although imprefUons upon 
the brain give no aid in accounting for memory, yet it is very pro- 
bable, that, in the human frame, memory is dependent on fome 
proper flate or temperament of the brain. 

Although the furniture of our memory bears no refemblance tO' 
any temperament of brain whatfoever, as indeed it is impollible it 
fhould ; yet Nature may have fubjecled us to this law, that a cer- 
tain conllitution or ftate of the brain is neceffary to memory. 
That- this is really the cafe, many well known fadls lead us to 



CHAP. VII . It is pofllble, that, by 'accurate obfervation, the proper means 
may be difcovered of preferving that temperament of the brain 
which is favourable to memory, and of remedying the diforders 
of that temperament. This would be a very noble improvement 
of the medical art. But if it fhould ever be attained, it would 
give no aid to underftand how one ftate of the brain aflifts memo- 
ry, and another hurts it. 

I know certainly, that the imprefllon made upon my hand by 
the prick of a pin occafions acute pain. But can any Philofopher 
Ihow how this caufe produces the efFed ? The nature of the im- 
preffion is here perfedly known ; but it gives no help to underftand 
how that imprefllon afFe(5ls the mind ; and if we knew as diftin<fl- 
ly that ftate of the brain which caufes memory, we fliould ftill be 
as ignorant as before how that ftate contributes to memory. We 
might have been fo conftituted, for any thing that I know, that the 
prick of a pin in the hand, inftead of caufing pain, Ihould caufe 
remembrance ; nor would that conftitution be more unaccountable 
than the prefent. 

The body and mind operate on each other, according to fixed 
laws of Nature ; and it is the bufinefs of a Philofopher to difcover 
thofe laws by obfervation and experiment : But, when he has dif- 
covered them, he muft reft in them as fads, whofe caufe is infcru- 
table to the human underftanding. 

Mr Locke, and thofe who have followed him, fpeak with more 
referve than the ancients, and only incidentally, of impreflions on 
the brain as the caufe of memory, and impute it rather to our re- 
taining in our minds the ideas, got either by fenfation or refled:ion. 

This, Mr Locke fays, may be done two ways ; " Fhjl^ by 
" keeping the idea for fome time actually in view, which is called 
** contemplation. Secondly^ by the power to revive again in our minds 
*' thofe ideas, which, after imprinting, have difappeared, or have 

** been, 


" been, as it were, laid out of fight ; and this is memory, which CHAP. vir. 
" is, as it were, the ftorehoufe of our ideas." 

To explain this more diftindly, he immediately adds the follow- 
ing obfervation : " But our ideas being nothing but adual per- 

" ceptions in the mind, which ceafe to be any thing, when there is 

" no perception of them, this laying up of our ideas in the repo- 

" fitory of the memory, fignifies no more but this, that the mind 

" has a power, in many cafes, to revive perceptions which it once 

" had, with this additional perception annexed to them, that it has 

*' had them before ; and in this fenfe it is, that our ideas are faid 

*' to be in our memories, when indeed they are a(5lually no where ; 

*' but only there is an ability in the mind, when it will, to revive 

" them again, and, as it were, paint them anew upon itfelf, though 

" fome with more, fome with lefs difBculty, fome more lively, and 

" others more obfcurely." ' 

In this accoimt of memory, the repeated ufe of the phrafe, as 
it were^ leads one to judge that it is partly figurative ; we muft 
therefore endeavour to diftinguifli the figurative part from the phi- 
lofophical. The firft being addrefl!ed to the imagination, exhibits 
a pi(5lure of memory, which, to have its efFe(5l, muft be viewed at 
a proper diftance, and from a particular point of view. The fe- 
cond being addreffed to the underflanding, ought to bear a near 
infpeclion, and a critical examination. 

The analogy between memory and a repofitory, and between re- 
membering and retaining, is obvious, and is to be found in all 
languages, it being very natural to exprefs the operations of the 
mind by images taken from things material. But in philofophy we 
ought to draw afide the veil of imagery, and to view them naked. 

When therefore memory is faid to be a repofitory or ftorehoufe 
of ideas, where they are laid up when not perceived, and again 
brought forth as there is occafion, I take this to be popular and 



^^^^^iXiV i"^ietorlcal. For the author tells us, that when they are not per- 
ceived, they are nothing, and no where, and therefore can neither 
be laid up in a repofitory, nor drawn out of it. 

But we are told, " That this laying up of our ideas in the repo- 
fitory of the memory fignifies no more than this, that the mind 
has a power to revive perceptions, which it once had, with this ad- 
ditional perception annexed to them, that it has had them before." 
This I think muft be underftood literally and philofophically. 

But it feems to me as difficult to revive things that have ceafed 
to be any thing, as to lay them up in a repofitory, or to bring 
them out of it. When a thing is once annihilated, the fame thing 
cannot be again produced, though another thing fimilar to it may. 
Mr Locke, in another place, acknowledges, that the fame thing 
cannot have two beginnings of exiftence ; and that things that 
have different beginnings are not the fame, but diverfe. From 
this it follows, that an ability to revive our ideas or perceptions, 
after they have ceafed to be, can fignify no more but an ability to 
create new ideas or perceptions fimilar to thofe we had before. 

They are faid " to be revived, with this additional perception, 
that we have had them before." This furely would be a fallaci- 
ous perception, fince they could not have two beginnings of exifl- 
ence ; nor could we believe them to have two beginnings of exifl- 
ence. We can only believe, that we had formerly ideas or percep- 
tions very like to them, though not identically the fame. But 
whether we perceive them to be the fame, or only like to thofe we 
had before, this perception, one would think, fuppofes a remem- 
brance of thofe we had before, otherwife the fimilitude or identity 
could not be perceived. 

Another phrafe is ufed to explain this reviving of our percep- 
tions. " The mind, as it were, paints them anew upon itfelf." 
There may be fomething figurative in this ; but making due al- 

»^ lowance 


lowance for that, it muft imply, that the mind, which paints the chap, vii . 
things that have ceafed to exifl, miifl have the memory of what 
they were, fince every painter muft have a copy either before his 
eye, or in his imagination and memory. 

Thefe remarks upon Mr Locke's account of memory are in- 
tended to fhow, that his fyftem of ideas gives no Ught to this fa- 
culty, but rather tends to darken it ; as little does it make us un- 
derftand how we remember, and by that means have the certain 
knowledge of things part. 

Every man knows what memory is, and has a diftindl notion of 
it: But when Mr Locke fpeaks of a power to revive in the mind 
thofe ideas, which, after imprinting, have difappeared, or have been, 
as it were, laid out of fight, one would hardly know this to be me- 
mory, if he had not told us. There are other things which it 
feems to refemble at leaft as much. I fee before me the pidlure of 
a friend. I fhut my eyes, or turn them another way; and the 
picture difappears, or is, as it were, laid out of fight. I have a 
power to turn my eyes again towards the pidlure, and immediate- 
ly the perception is revived. But is this memory ? no furely ; yet 
it anfwers the definition as well as memory itfelf can do. 

We may obferve, that the word perception is ufed by Mr Locke 
in too indefinite a way, as well as the word idea. 

Perception, in the chapter upon that fubje<5l, is faid to be the 
firft faculty of the mind exercifed about our ideas. Here we are 
told that ideas are nothing but perceptions : Yet I apprehend it, 
would found oddly to fay, that perception is the firft faculty of 
the mind exercifed about perception ; and ftill more ftrangely to 
fay, that ideas are the firft faculty of the mind exercifed about our 
ideas. But why Ihould not ideas be a faculty as well as percep- 
tion, if both are the fame ? 

X X Memory •" 


CHAP. vil. Memory is faid to be a power to revive our perceptions. Wilt 
it not follovsr from this, that every thing that can be remembered 
is a perception ? If this be fo, it will be difficult to find any thing- 
in nature but perceptions. 

Our ideas, we are told, are nothing but adual perceptions ; but 
in many places of the EfTay, ideas are faid to be the obje(5ts of 
perception, and that the mind, in all its thoughts and reafonings, 
has no other immediate objecfl which it does or can contemplate 
but its own ideas. Does it not appear from this, either that Mr 
Locke held the operations of the mind to be the fame thing with 
the objects of thofe operations, or that he ufed the word idea fome- 
times in one fenfe and fometimes in another, without any intima- 
tion, and probably without any apprehenfion of its ambiguity ? It 
is an article of Mr Hume's philofophy, that there is no diflindion 
between the operations of the mind and their objedls. But I fee 
no reafon to impute this opinion to Mr Locke. I rather think, 
that, notwithftanding his great judgment and candour, his under- 
ftanding was entangled by the ambiguity of the word idea, and 
that moft of the imperfe«5lions of liis ElTay are owing to that caufe. 

Mr Hume faw farther into the confequences of the common 
fyflem concerning ideas than any author had done before him. 
He faw the abfurdity of making every objedl of thought double, 
and fplitting it into a remote obje<fl, which has a feparate and per- 
manent exiftence, and an immediate obje(5l, called an idea or im- 
preffion, which is an image of the former, and has no exiftence, 
but when we are confcious of it. According to this fyftem, we 
have no intercourfe with the external world, but by means of the 
internal world of ideas, which reprefents the other to the mind. 

He faw it was neceffary to reject one of thefe worlds as a fic- 
tion, and the queflion was. Which fhould be rejedled ? Whether 
all mankind, learned and unlearned, had feigned the exiftence of 
the external world without good reafon I or whether Philofophers 



had feigned the internal world of ideas, in order to account for CHAP.vii, 
the intercourfe of the mind with the external ? Mr Hume adopt- 
ed the firft of thefe opinions, and employed his reafon and elo- 
quence in fupport of it. 

Bilhop Berkeley had gone fo far in the fame track as to reje(fl 
the material world as fiditious ; but it was left to Mr Hume to 
complete the fyftem. 

According to his fyftem, therefore, impreflions and ideas in his 
own mind are the only things a man can know, or can conceive : 
Nor are thefe ideas reprefentatives, as they were in the old fyftem. 
There is nothing elfe in nature, or at leaft within the reach of our 
faculties, to be reprefented. What the vulgar call the perception 
of an external objedl, is nothing but a ftrong impreffion upon 
the mind. What we call the remembrance of a paft event, is no- 
thing but a prefent impreffion or idea, weaker than the former. 
And what we call imagination, is ftill a prefent idea, but weaker 
than that of memory. 

That I may not do him injuftice, thefe are his words in his 
Treatife of Human Nature, page 193. 

" We find by experience, that when any impreffion has been 

" prefent with the mind, it again makes its appearance there as an 

" idea ; and this it may do after two different ways, either when 

" in its new appearance it retains a confiderable degree of its firft 

" vivacity, and is fomewhat intermediate betwixt an impreffion 

" and an idea, or when it entirely lofes that vivacity, and is a per- 

" fedl idea. The faculty by. which we repeat our impreffions in 

" the firft manner, is called the memory, and the other the ima^- 

" gination." 

Upon this account of memory and imagination I fhall make 
fome remarks. 

X X 2 Firjl, 


CHAP. VII. Firjl^ I wlfh to know, what we are here to underftand by expe- 
rience ? It is faid, we find all this by experience ; and I conceive 
nothing can be meant by this experience but memory. Not that 
inemory which our author defines, but memory in the common 
acceptation of the word. According to vulgar apprehenfion, me- 
mory is an immediate knowledge of fomething paft. Our author 
does not admit that there is any fuch knowledge in the human 
mind. He maintains that memory is nothing but a prefent idea 
or impreffion. But, in defining what he takes memory to be, he 
takes for granted that kind of memory which he reje<5ls. For can 
we find by experience, that an impreffion, after its firfl appear- 
ance to the mind, makes a fecond, and a third, with difterent de- 
grees of ftrength and vivacity, if we have not fo diftind a remem- 
brance of its firft appearance, as enables us to know it, upon its 
fecond and third, notwithftanding that, in the interval, it has un- 
dergone a very confiderable change ? 

All experience fuppofes memory ; and there caix be no fuch 
thing as experience, without trufting to our own memory, or that 
of others: So that it appears from Mr Hume's account of this 
matter, that he found himfelf to have that kind of memory, which 
he acknowledges and defines, by exercifing that kind which he 

Secondly^ What is it we find by experience or memory ? It is, 
" That when an impreffion has been prefent with the mind, it 
" again makes its appearance there as an idea, and that aftev 
" two different ways." 

If experience informs us of this, it certainly deceives us ; for 
the thing is impoffible, and the author fliews it to be fo. Impref- 
fions and ideas are fleeting perifliable things, which have no exig- 
ence, but when we are confcious of them. If an impreffion could 
make a fecond and a third appearance to the mind, it muft have a 
continued exiftence during the interval of thefe appearances, which 



Mr Hume acknowledges to be a grofs abfurdity. It feems then, CHAP, vii . 
that we find, by experience, a thing which is impoffible. We arc 
impofed upon by our experience, and made to beUeve contra- 

Perhaps it may be faid, that thefe different appearances of the 
impreffion are not to be underftood hterally, but figuratively ; 
that the impreffion is perfonified, and made to appear at different 
times, and in different habits, when no more is meant, but that an 
impreffion appears at one time ; afterwards a thing of a middle 
nature, between an impreffion and an idea, wliich we call memory, 
and lafl of all a perfedl idea, which we call imagination : that 
this figurative meaning agrees befl with the kfl fentence of the 
period, where we are told, that memory and imagination are facul- 
ties, whereby we repeat our impreflions in a more or lefs lively- 
manner. To repeat an impreffion is a figurative way of fpeaking, 
which fignifiea making a new impreffion fimilar to the former. 

If, to avoid the abfurdity implied in the literal meaning, we 
underftand the Philofopher in this figurative one, then his defini- 
tions of memory and imagination, when ftripped of the figurative 
drefs, will amount to this. That memory is the faculty of making 
a weak impreffion, and imagination the faculty of making an im- 
preffion flill weaker, after a correfponding flrong one. Thefe de- 
finitions of memory and imagination labour under two defe(5ls ; 
firjl^ That they convey no nation of the thing defined; and,y^- 
condly. That they may be applied to things of a quite different na- 
ture from thofe that are defined. 

When we are faid to have a faculty of making a weak impref- 
fion after a correfponding flrong one, it would not be eafy to con- 
je<5lure that this faculty is memory. Suppofe a man flrikes his 
head fmartly againfl the wall, this is an impreffion ; now he has a 
faculty by which he can repeat this impreffion with lefs force, fo 
as not to hurt him j this, by\Mr Home's account,^ mufl be me- 


mory. He has a faculty by which he can juft touch the wall with 
his head, fo that the impreffion entirely lofes its vivacity. This 
furely muft be imagination ; at leaft it comes as near to the defini- 
tion given of it by Mr Hume as any thing I can conceive. 

Thirdly^ We may obferve, that when we are told that we have 
a faculty of repeating our imprelllons in a more or lefs lively man- 
ner, this implies that we are the efficient caufes of our ideas of 
menjory and imagination ; but this contradicts what the author 
fays a little before, where he proves, by what he calls a convincing 
argument, that impreflions are the caufe of their correfponding 
ideas. The argument that proves this had need indeed to be very 
convincing ; whether we make the idea to be a fecond appearance 
of the impreffion, or a new impreffion fimilar to the former. 

If the firfl be true, then the impreffion is the caufe of itfelf. If 
the fecond, then the impreffion after it is gone, and has no exift- 
ence, produces the idea. Such are the myfleries of Mr Hume's 

It may be obferved, that the common fyflem, that ideas are the 
only immediate objedls of thought, leads to fcepticifm with regard 
to memory, as well as with regard to the objedls of fenfe, whether 
thofe ideas are placed in the mind or in the brain. 

Ideas are faid to be things internal and prefent, which have no 
exiflence but during the moment they are in the mind. The ob- 
jedls of fenfe are things external, which have a continued exiflence. 
When it is maintained, that all that we immediately perceive is only 
ideas or phantafms, how can we, from the exiflence of thofe phan- 
tafms, conclude the exiflence of an external world correfponding 
to them ? 

This difficult queflion feems not to have occurred to the Peripa- 
tetics. Des Cartes faw the difficulty, and endeavoured to find 



out arguments by which, from the exlftence of our phantafms or CHAP.vir. 
ideas, we might infer the exiflence of external objedls. The fame 
courfe was followed by Malebranche, Arnauld, and Locke; 
but Berkeley and Hume ealily refuted all their arguments, and 
demonftrated that there is no flrength in them. 

The fame difficulty with regard to memory naturally arifes from 
the fyftem of ideas ; and the only reafon why it was not obferved 
by Philofophers, is, becaufe they give lefs attention to the memory 
than to the fenfes : For fince ideas are things prefent, how can we, 
from our having a certain idea prefently in our mind, conclude that 
an event really happened ten or twenty years ago correfponding to it ? 

There is the fame need of arguments to prove, that the ideas of 
memory are pi<5lures of things that really did happen, as that the 
ideas of fenfe are pidlures of external objects which now exift. In 
both cafes, it will be impoffible to find any argument that has real 
weight. So that this hypothefis leads us to abfolute fcepticifm, 
with regard to thofe things which we moft; diflindlly remember, na 
lefs than with regard to the external objedls of fenfe. 

It does not appear to have occurred either to Locke or to Berke- 
ley, that their fyftem has the fame tendency to overturn the tefti- 
mony of memory as the teftimony of the fenfes. 

Mr Hume faw farther than both, and found this confequence 
of the fyftem of ideas perfe(flly correfponding to his aim of efta- 
blifhing univerfal fcepticifm. His fyftem is therefore more confift- 
ent than theirs, and the conclufions agree better with the premifes. 

But if we {hould grant to Mr Hume, that ourideas of memory 
afford no juft ground to believe the paft exiftence of things which 
we remember, it may ftill be afl^ed. How it comes to pafs that per- 
ception and memory are accompanied with belief, while bare ima- 
gination is not ? Though this belief cannot be juftified upon hrs 



CHAP. VII . fyftem, it ought to be accounted for as a phsenomenon of human 

This he has done, by giving us a new theory of belief in general ; 
a theory which-fuits very well with that of ideas, and feems to be a 
natural confequence of it, and which at the fame time reconciles 
all the belief that we find in human nature to perfedl fcepticifm. 

What then is this belief? It muft either be an idea, or fome mo- 
dification of an idea ; we conceive many things which we do not 
believe. The idea of an objedl is the fame whether we believe it 
to exift, or barely conceive it. The belief adds no new idea to the 
conception ; it is therefore nothing but a modification of the idea 
of the thing believed, or a different manner of conceiving it. Hear 
himfelf : 

" All the perceptions of the mind are of two kinds, impreflions 

** and ideas, which differ from each other only in their different 

" degrees of force and vivacity. Our ideas are copied from our 

*' impreflions, and reprefent them in all their parts. When you 

" would vary the idea of a particular obje<5l, you can only increafe 

" or diminifli its force and vivacity : If you make any other 

" change upon it, it reprefents a different objedl or imprefllon. 

" The cafe is the lame as in colours. A particular fhade of any 

*' colour may acquire a new degree of livelinefs or brightnefs, 

" without any other variation : But when you produce any other 

*' variation, it is no longer the fame fliade or colour. So that as 

" belief does nothing but vary the manner in which we conceive 

" any obje(5l, it can only beflow on our ideas an additional force 

*' and vivacity. An opinion, therefore, or belief, may be moft 

" accurately defined a lively idea, related to or aflbciated with a 

" prcfent imprefllon." 

This theory of belief is very fruitful of confequences, which 
Mr Hume traces with his ufual acutenefs, and brings into the 



fervice of his fyftenft. A gfeat part of his fyllem indeed is built chap. vii. 
upon it ; and it is of itfelf fuflicient to prove what he calls his hy- 
pothefis, " that belief is more properly an a<5l of the fenfitire than 
of tlie cogitative part of our natures." 

It is very difficult to examine this account of belief with the 
fame gravity with which it is propofed. It puts one in mind of 
the ingenious account giveh by Martinus Scriblerus of the 
power of fyllogifm, by making the major the male, and the minor 
the female, which being coupled by the middle term, generate the 
conclufion. There is furely no fcience in which men of great 
parts and ingenuity have fallen into fuch grofs abfurdities as in 
treating of the powers of the mind. I cannot help thinking, that 
never any thing more abfurd was gravely maintained by any Phi- 
lofopher, than this account of the nature of belief, and of the 
diftindlion of perception, memory, and imagination. 

The belief of a propofition is an operation of mind of which 
every man is confcious, and \«^hat it is he underftands perfectly, 
though, on account of its fimplicity, he cannot give a logical de- 
finition of it. If he compares it with flrength or vivacity of his 
ideas, or with any modification of ideas, they are fo far from ap- 
pearing to be one and the fame, that they have not the leaft fimilitude. 

That a ftrong belief and a weak belief differ only in degree, I can 
eafily comprehend ; but that belief and no belief fhould differ on- 
ly in degree, no man can believe who underftands what he fpeaks : 
For this is in reality to fay that fomething and nothing differ on- 
ly in degree, or that nothing is a degree of fomething. 

Every propofition that may be the objedl of belief, has a con- 
trary propofition that may be the obje(5l of a contrary belief. The 
ideas of both, according to Mr Hume, are the fame, and differ 
only in degrees of vivacity. That is, contraries differ only 
in degree ; and fo pleafure may be a degree of pain, and 

Y V hatred 


CHAP. VII . hatred a degree of love. But it is to no purpofe to trace the ab- 
furdities that follow from this do<5lrine, for none of them can be 
more abfurd than the dodrine itfelf. 

Every man knows perfedly what it is to fee an obje<5l with his 
eyes, what it is to remember a paft event, and what it is to con- 
ceive a thing which has no exiftence. That thefe are quite dif- 
ferent operations of his mind, he is as certain as that found dif- 
fers from colour, and both from tafte ; and I can as eafily believe 
that found, and colour, and tafte, differ only in degree, as that 
feeing, and remembering, and imagining, differ only in degree. 

Mr Hume, in the third volume of his Treatife of Human Na- 
ture, is fenfible that his theory of belief is liable to ftrong ob- 
je(flions, and feems, in fome meafure, to retrac5l it ; but in what 
meafure, it is not eafy to fay. He feems ftill to think that belief 
is only a modification of the idea, but that vivacity is not a pro- 
per term to exprefs that modification. Inflead of it he ufes fome 
analogical phrafes to explain that modification, fuch as " appre- 
•' hending the idea more flrongly, or taking fafter hold of it." 

There is nothing more meritorious in aPhilofopher than to retra<3: 
an error upon convidion ; but in this inflance I humbly apprehend 
Mr Hume claims that merit upon too flight a ground : For I can- 
not perceive that the apprehending an idea more ftrongly, or 
taking fafler hold of it, expreffes any other modification of the 
idea than what was before expreffed by its flrength and vivacity, or 
even that it expreffes the fame modification more properly. What- 
ever modification of the idea he makes belief to be, whether its 
vivacity, or fome other without a name, to make perception, me- 
mory, and imagination, to be the different degrees of that modi- 
fication, is chargeable with the abfurdities we have mentioned. 

Before we leave this fubjetll of memory, it is proper to take 
notice of a diftindion which Aristotle makes between memo- 


ry and reminifcence, becaufe the diflindlion has a real foundation CHA P, vir . 
in nature, though in our language I think we do not diftinguiih 
them by different names. 

Memory is a kind of habit which is not always in exercife with 
regard to things we remember, but is ready to fuggefl them when 
there is occafion. The moft perfed degree of this habit is, when 
the thing prefents itfelf to our remembrance fpontaneoufly, and 
without labour, as often as there is occafion. A fecond degree is, 
when the thing is forgot for a longer or fliorter time, even when 
there is occafion to remember it, yet at laft fome incident brings 
it to mind without any fearch. A third degree is, when we cafl 
about and fearch for what we would remember, and fo at laft 
find it out. It is this laft, I think, which Aristotle calls re- 
minifcence, as diftinguiflied from memory. 

Reminifcence, therefore, includes a will to recolledl fomething 
paft, and a fearch for it. But here a difficulty occurs. It may 
be faid, that what we will to remember we muft conceive, as 
there can be no will without a conception of the thing willed. 
A will to remember a thing, therefore, feems to imply that we 
remember it already, and have no occafion to fearch for it. But 
this difficulty is eafily removed. When we will to remember a 
thing, we muft remember fomething relating to it, which gives us 
a relative conception of it ; but we may, at the fame time, have no 
conception what the thing is, but only what relation it bears to 
fomething elfe. Thus, I remember that a friend charged me with 
a commiffion to be executed at fuch a place ; but I have forgot 
what the commiffion was. By applying my thought to what I 
remember concerning it, that it was given by fuch a perfon, upon 
fuch an occafion, in confequence of fuch a converfation, I am 
led, in a train of thought, to the very thing I had forgot, and 
recolle<5l diftindly what the commiffion was. 

Aristotle fays, that brutes have not reminifcence, and this I 

y y 2 think 




CHA P. VII . think is probable ; but, fays he, they have memory. It cannot^ 
indeed, be doubted but they have fomething very Uke to it, and 
in fome inftances in a very great degree. A dog knows his mafter 
after long abfence. A horfe will trace back a road he has once 
gone as accurately as a man ; and this is th$ more ftrange, that 
the train of thought which he had \n going muft be reverfed in 
his return. It is very like to fome prodigious memories we read 
of, where a perfon, upon hearing an hundred names or uncon- 
nedled words pronounced, can begin at the laft, and go back- 
wards to the firft, without lofing or mifplacing one. Brutes cer- 
tainly may learn much from experience, which feems to imply 

Yet I fee no reafon to think that brutes meafure time as men 
do, by days, months, or years, or that they have any di£lin<5t 
knowledge of the interval between things which they remember, 
or of their diftance from the prefent moment. If we could not 
record tranfaiflions according to their dates, human memory would 
be fomething very different from what it is, and perhaps refemble 
more the memory of brutes. 



^ ^ ' 




Of Conception f or fimple Apprehenfion in GeneraL 

CONCEIVING, imagining, apprehending, underftanding, 
having a norion of a thing, are common words ufed to ex- 
prefs that operation of the underftanding, which the Logicians call 
fimple apprehenfion. The having an idea of a thing, is in common 
language ufed in the fame fenfe, chiefly I think fince Mr Locke's- 

Logicians define fimple apprehenfion to be the bare conception 
of a thing without any judgment or belief about it. If this were 
intended for a ftricflly logical definition, it might be a juft objedtion 
, to it, that conception and apprehenfion are only fynonymous words; 
and chat we may as well define conception by apprehenfion, as ap- 
prehenfion by conception ; but it ought to be remembered, that the 
mod: fimple operations of the mind cannot be logically defined.- 
To have a diftindl notion of them, we muft attend to them as we 
feel them in our own minds. He that would have a diflin(fl no- 
tion of a fcarlet colour, will never attain it by a definition ; he muft 
fet it before his eye, attend to it, compare it with the colours that 
come neareft to it, and obferve the fpecific difference, which he will 

in vain attempt to define.. 


35^ E S S A Y IV. 

?^^J' ^'j Every man is confcious that he can conceive a thoufand things, 
of which he believes nothing at all ; as a horfe with wings, a moun- 
tain of gold ; but although conception may be without any degree 
of belief, even the fmalleft belief cannot be without conception. 
He that believes, mull have fomc conception of what he believes. 

Without attempting a definition of this operation of the mind, 
I fhall endeavour to explain fome of its properties ; confider the 
' theories about it ; and take notice of fome miftakes of Philofophers 

concerning it. 

I. It may be obferved, that conception enters as an ingredient in 
every operation of the mind : Our fenfes cannot give us the belief 
of any objedl, without giving fome conception of it at the fame 
time: No man can either remember or reafon about things of which 
he hath no conception : When we will to exert any of our a(5live 
powers, there muft be fome conception of what we will to do : 
There can be no defire nor averfion, love nor hatred, without fome 
conception of the objedl : We cannot feel pain without conceiving 
it, though we can conceive it without feeling it. Thefe things are 

In every operation of the mind therefore, in every thing we call 
thought there muft be conception : When we analyfe the various 
operations either of the underftanding or of the will, we fhall al- 
ways find this at the bottom, like the caput mortuum of the Chemifts, 
or the materia prima of the Peripatetics ; but though there is no 
operation of mind without conception, yet it may be found naked, 
detached from all others, and then it is called fimple apprehenfion, 
or the bare conception of a thing. 

As all the operations of our mind are exprefTed by language, 
every one knows, that it is one thing to underftand what is faid, 
to conceive or apprehend its meaning, whether it be a word, a fen- 
tence, or a difcourfe j it is another thing to judge of it, to aiTent 



or diffent, to be perfuaded or moved. The firft is fimple appre- CHAP, i.^ 
henfion, and may be without the lafl, but the laft cannot be with- 
out the firft. 

2. In bare conception there can neither be truth nor falfehood, 
becaufe it neither affirms nor denies. Every judgment, and every 
propofition by which judgment is exprefTed, muft be true or falfe; 
and the qualities of true and falfe, in their proper fenfe, can be- 
long to nothing but to judgments, or to propofitions which exprefs 
judgment. In the bare conception of a thing there is no judg- 
ment, opinion, or belief included, and therefore it cannot be either 
true or falfe. 

But it may be faid, Is there any thing more certain than that 
men may have true or falfe conceptions, ti ue or falfe apprehenfions, 
of things ? I anfwer, That fuch ways of fpeaking are indeed fo 
common, and fo well authorifed by cuftom, the arbiter of lan- 
guage, that it would be prefumption to cenfure them. It is hard- 
ly poffible to avoid ufing them. But we ought to be upon our 
guard that we be not mifled by them, to confound things, which, 
though often exprefTed by the fame words, are really different. We 
muft therefore remember what was before obferved, Effay I. chap. i. 
That all the words, by which we fignify the bare conception of a 
thing, are likewife ufed to fignify our opinions, when we wifti to 
exprefs them with modefty and diffidence. And we fhall always 
find, that, when we fpeak of true or falfe conceptions, we mean 
true or falfe opinions. An opinion, though ever fo wavering, or 
ever fo modeftly expreffed, muft be either true or falfe ; but a 
bare conception, which exprefles no opinion or judgment, can be 

If we analyfe thofe fpeeches, in which men attribute truth or 
falfehood to our conceptions of things, we fliall find in every cafe, 
that there is fome opinion or judgment implied in what they call 
conception. A child conceives the moon to be flat, and a foot or 


36o ESSAY IV. 

CHAP. I. tvvo broad ; that is, this is his opinion : And when we fay it is a 
falfe notion, or a falfe conception, we mean that it is a falfe opi- 
nion. He conceives the city of London to be like his country 
village ; that is, he believes it to be fo, till he is better inflruded. 
He conceives a lion to have horns ; that is, he believes that the ani- 
mal which men call a lion, has horns. Such opinions language 
authorifes us to call conceptions ; and they may be true or falfe. 
But bare conception, or what the Logicians call fimple apprehen- 
fion, implies no opinion, however flight, and therefore can nei- 
ther be true nor falfe. 

What Mr Locke fays of ideas (by which word he very often 
means nothing but conceptions) is very juft, when the word idea 
is fo underftood, book 2. chap; 32. § i. " Though truth and falfe- 
" hood belong in propriety of fpeech only to propofitions, yet ideas 
" are often termed true or falfe (as what words are there that are 
" not ufed with great latitude, and with fome deviation from their 
" ftridl and proper fignlfication) ; though I think, that when ideas 
*' themfelves are termed true or falfe, there is ftill fome fecret or 
" tacit propofition, which is the foundation of that denomination ; 
*' as we fliall fee, if we examine the particular occafions wherein 
" they come to be called true or falfe ; in all which we fhall find 
*' fome kind of affirmation or negation, which is the reafon of 
" that denomination : For our ideas being nothing but bare ap- 
" pearances, or perceptions in our minds, cannot properly and 
" fimply in themfelves be faid to be true or falfe, no more than a 
*' fimple name of any thing can be faid to be true or falfe." 

It may be here obferved by the way, that in this paflTage, as in 
many others, Mr Locke ufes the word perception^ as well as the 
word idea^ to fignify what I call conception;^ or fimple apprehen- 
fion. And in his chapter upon perception, book 2. chap. 9. he 
ufes it in the fame fenfe. Perception, he fays, " as it is the firft 
" faculty of the mind, exercifed about our ideas ; fo it is the firft 

and fimpleft idea we have from reflection, and is by fome called 




" thinking in general. It feems to be that which puts the diftinc- CHAP. i. 
*' tion betwixt the animal kingdom and the inferior parts of na- 
" ture. It is the firft operation of all our faculties, and the inlet 
** of all knowledge into our minds." 

Mr Locke has followed the example given by Des Cartes, 
Gassendi, and other Cartefians, in giving the name oi perception 
to the bare conception of things : And he has been followed in this 
hy Bifliop Berkeley, Mr Hume, and many late Philofophers, 
iwhen they treat of ideas. They have probably been led into this 
impropriety, t>y the common dodlrine concerning ideas, which 
teaches us, that conception, perception by the fenfes, and memory, 
are only different ways of perceiving ideas in our own minds. If 
that theory be well founded, it will indeed be very difficult to find 
any fpecific diflin<5lion between conception and perception. But 
there is reafon to diflrufl any philofophical theory, when it leads 
men to corrupt language, and to confound, under one name, ope- 
rations of the mind, which common fenfe and common language 
teach them to diliinguifh. 

I grant that there are fome flates of the mind, wherein a man 
may confound his conceptions with what he perceives or remem- 
bers, and miflake the one for the other ; as, in the delirium of a fe- 
ver, in fome cafes of lunacy and of madnefs, in dreaming, and 
perhaps in fome momentary tranfports of devotion, or of other 
flrong emotions, which cloud his intelleclual faculties, and for a 
time carry a man out of himfelf, as we ufually exprefe it. 

Even in a fober and found flate of mind, the memory of a 
thing may be fo very weak, that we may be in doubt whether we 
only dreamed or imagined it. 

It may be doubted, whether children, when their imagination firfl 
begins to work,can diftinguilli what they barely conceive from what 
they remember. I have been told by a man of knowledge and ob- 

Z z fervation, 

362 ESSAY IV. 

CHAP. I. fervation, that one of his fons, when h^ began to fpeak, very often 
told lies with great afluraiice, without any intention, as far as ap- 
peared, or any confcioufnefs of guilt. From which the father 
concluded, that it is natural to fome. children to lie. I am rather 
inclined to think, that the child had no intention to deceive, but 
miftook the rovings of his own fancy, for things which he remem- 
bered. This, however, I take to be very uncommon, after chil- 
dren can communicate their fentiments by language, though per- 
haps not fo in a more early period. 

Granting all this, if any man will aiErni, that they whofe in- 
telledual faculties are found, and fober, and ripe, cannot with cer- 
tainty diftinguifh what they perceive or remember, from what they 
barely conceive, when thofe operations have any degree of flrength 
and diftindlnefs, he may enjoy his opinion ; I know not how to 
reafon with him. Why Ihould Philofophers confound thofe ope- 
rations in treating of ideas, when they would be afhamed to do it 
on other occafions ? To diftinguiih the various powers of our minds, 
a certain degree of underflanding is neceffary : And if fome, 
through a defedl of underflanding, natural or accidental, or from 
unripenefs of underflanding, may be apt to confound diflferent 
powers, will it follow that others cannot clearly diflinguifli them ? 

To return from this digrefTion, into which the abufe of the word 
perception, by Philofophers, has led me, it appears evident,' that 
the bare conception of an objecfl, which includes no opinion or 
judgment, can neither be true nor falfe. Thofe qualities, in their 
proper fenfe,are|^altogether inapplicable to this operation of the mind. 

3. Of all the analogies between the operations of body and thofe 
of the mind, there is none fo flrong and fo obvious to all man- 
kind as that which there is between painting, or other plafl-ic arts, 
and the power of conceiving objeds in the mind. Hence in all 
languages, the words, by which this power of the mind and its 
various modifications are exprefTed, are analogical, and borrowed 



from thofe arts. We confider this power of the mind as a plaftic CHAP. i. 
power, by which we form to ourfelves images of the objedls of 

In vain Ihould we attempt to avoid this analogical lan- 
guage, for we have no other language upon the fubje(5t ; yet it is 
dangerous, and apt to miflead. All analogical and figurative words 
have a double meaning ; and, if we are not very much upon our 
guard, we Aide infenfibly from the borrowed and figurative mean- 
ing into the primitive. We are prone to carry the parallel between 
the things compared farther than it will hold, and thus very natu- 
rally to fall into error. 

To avoid this as far as pofTible in the prefent fubje<5l, it is pro- 
per to attend to the diffimilitude between conceiving a thing in 
the mind, and painting it to the eye, as well as to their fimilitude. 
The fimilitude ftrikes and gives pleafure. The diffimilitude we 
are lefs difpofed to obferve. But the Philofopher ought to attend 
to it, and to carry it always in mind, in his reafonings on this fub- 
je(5l, as a monitor, to warn him againft the errors into which the 
analogical language is apt to draw him. 

When a man paints, there is fome work done, which remains 
when his hand is taken off, and continues to exift, though he 
fhould think no more of it. Every ftroke of his pencil produces 
an effedl, and this effedl is different from his adion in making it ; 
for it remains and continues to exift when the adlion ceafes. The 
adlion of painting is one thingi the pidure produced is another 
thing. The firft is the caufe, the fecond is the effedl. 

Let us next confider what is done when he only conceives this 
pidure. He muft have conceived it before he painted it : For this 
is a maxim univerfally admitted, that every work of art muft firft 
be conceived in the mind of the operator. What is this concep- 
tion? it is an a<5l of the mind, a kind of thought. This cannot 

Z z 2 be 

364 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP. I. ^ be denied. But does it produce any effedl befides the adl itfelf ?'" 
Surely common fenfe anfwers this queftion in the negative : For 
every one know^s, that it is one thing to conceive, another thing to 
bring forth into effedl. It is one thing to proje(5l, another to exe- 
cute. A man may think for a long time what he is to dO) and af- 
ter all do nothing. Conceiving as well as projeding or refolving, 
are what the fchoolmen called immanent adls of the mind, which 
produce nothing beyond themfelves. But painting is a tranfitive 
adl, which produces an efFedt diftindl from the operation, and this 
efFedl is the pidture. Let this therefore be always remembered, 
that what is commonly called the image of a thing in the mind, is 
no more than the a6l or operation of the mind iji conceiving it. 

That this is the common fenfe of men who are untutored by 
philofophy, appears from their language. If one ignorant of the 
language ihould afk. What is meant by conceiving a thing ? we 
Ihould very naturally anfwer, That it is having an image of it in 
the mind ; and perhaps we could not explain the word better. This 
fhows, that conception, and the image of a thing in the mind, 
are fynonymous expreflions. The image in the'mind, therefore, 
is not the objedl of conception, nor is it any e£fe<fl produced by 
conception as a caufe. It is conception itfelf. That very mode of 
thinking, which we call conception, is by another name called an 
image in the mind. 

Nothing more readily gives the conception of a thing than the 
• feeing an image of it. Hence, by a figure common in language, 
conception is called an image of the thing conceived. But to Ihow 
that it is not a real but a metaphorical image^ it is called an image 
in the mind. We know nothing that is properly in the mind but 
thought ; and when any thing elfe is faid to be in the mind, the 
expreffion muft be figurative, and fignify forae kind of thought. 

I know that Philofophers very unanimoufly maintain, that in 
conception there is a real image in the mind, which is the imme- 


diate objed of conception, and diftincl from the adl of conceiving P^^^- ^\ 
it. I beg the reader's indulgence to defer what may be faid for or 
againft this philofophical opinion to the next chapter ; intending 
in this only to explain what appears to me to belong to this ope- 
ration of mind, without coniideriiig the theories about it. 1 think 
it appears from what has been faid, that the common language of 
thofe who have not imbibed any philofophical opinion upon this 
fubjedl, authorifes us to underftand the conception of. a things and an 
image of it in the mind., not as two different things, but as two dif- 
ferent expreflions, to fignify one and the fame thing ; and I wiCh 
to ufe common words in their common acceptation. 

4. Taking along with us what is faid in the lafl; article, to guard 
us againft the fedudlion of the analogical language ufed on this 
fubjedl, we may obferve a very ftrong analogy, not only between 
conceiving and painting in general, but between the different kinds 
of our conceptions, and the different works of the painter. He 
either makes fancy pidures, or he copies from the painting of 
others, or he paints from the life ; that is, from real objeds of art 
or nature which he has feen. I think our conceptions admit of a 
divifion very fimilar.. 

Firfl., There are conceptions which may be called fancy pidlures- 
They are commonly called creatures of fancy, or of imagination. 
They are not the copies of any original that exifts, but are originals 
themfclves. Such was the conception which Swift formed of 
the ifland of Laputa and of the country of the Lilliputians ; Cer- 
vantes of Don Quixote and his Squire; Harrington of the 
government of Oceana ; and Sir Thomas More of that of Uto- 
pia. We can give names to fuch creatures of imagination, con- 
ceive them diftindly, and reafon confequentially concerning them, 
though they never had an exlrtence. They were conceived by 
their creators, and may be conceived by others, but they never 
exifted. We do not afcribe the qualities of true or falfe to them, 




CHA?. i.^ becaufe they are not accompanied with any belief, nor do they 
imply any affirmation or negation. 

Setting afide thofe creatures of imagination, there are other 
conceptions, which may be called copies, becaufe they have an 
original or archetype to which they refer, and with which they 
are believed to agree ; and we call them true or falfe conceptions, 
according as they agree or difagree with the ftandard to which 
they are referred. Thefe are of two kinds, which have different 
ftandards or originals. 

The firjl kind is analogous to pidures taken from the life. We 
have conceptions of individual things that really exift, fuch as 
the city of London, or the government of Venice. Here the 
things conceived are the originals ; and our conceptions are called 
true when they agree with the thing conceived. Thus, ray con- 
ception of the city of London is true when I conceive it to be 
what it really is. 

Individual things which really exift, being the creatures of God, 
• (though fome of them may receive their outward form from man), 
he only who made them knows their whole nature ; we know 
them but in part, and therefore our conceptions of them muft in 
all cafes be imperfedl and inadequate ; yet they may be true and 
juft, as far as they reach. 

The fecond kind is analogous to the copies which the painter 
makes from pictures done before. Such I think are the concep- 
tions we have of what the ancients called univerfals ; that is, of 
things which belong or may belong to many individuals. Thefe 
are kinds and fpecies of things ; fuch as, man or elephant, which 
are fpecies of fubftances ; wifdom or courage, which are fpecies 
of qualities ; equality or fimilitude, which are fpecies of relations. 
It may be afked, From what original are thefe conceptions formed ? 
And when are they faid to be true or falfe ? 



Ic appears to rae, that the original from which they are copied, CHAP. I. 
that is, the thing conceived, is the conception or meaning which 
other men who underftand the language affix to the fame words. 

Things are parcelled into kinds and forts, not by Nature, but 
by men. The individual things we are conne<5led with, are fo 
many, that to give a proper name to every individual would be 
impoffible. We could never attain the knowledge of them that is 
neceflary, nor converfe and reafon about them, without forting. 
them according to their. difFerept attributes. Thofe that agree in 
certain attributes are thrown into one parcel, and have a general 
name given them, which belongs equally to every individual in 
that parcel. This common name muft therefore fignify thofe at- 
tributes which have been obferved to be common to every indi- 
vidual in that parcel, and nothing dfe. 

That fuch general words may anfwer their intention, all that 
is neceflary is, that thofe who ufe them Ihould affix the fame 
meaning or notion, that is, the fame conception to them. The 
common meaning is the ftandard by which fuch conceptions are 
formed, and they are faid to be true or falfe, according as they 
agree or difagree with it. Thus, my conception of felony is true 
and jufl, when it agrees with the meaning of that word in the 
laws relating to it, and in authors who underftand the law. The 
meaning of the word is the thing conceived ; and that meaning is 
the conception affixed to it by thofe who beft underftand the 

An individual is expreffed in language either by a proper name, 
or by a general word joined to fuch. circumftances as diftinguifh 
that individual from all others; if it is unknown, it may, when 
an objed of fenfe and within reach,, be pointed out to the fenfes j 
when beyond the reach of the fenfes, it may be afcertained by a 
defcription, which, though very imperfed, may be true and fuf- 
ficient to diftinguifh it from every other individual. Hence it is, 


368 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP, i.^ tJiat, in fpeaking of individuals, we are very little in danger of 
miilaking the objed:, or taking one individual for another. 

Yet, as was before obferved, our conception of them is always 
inadequate and lame. They are the creatures of God, and there 
are many things belonging to them which we know not, and which 
cannot be deduced by reafoning from what we know : They have 
a real eiTence, or conflitution of nature, from which all their qua- 
lities flow ; but this eflence our faculties do not comprehend : They 
are therefore incapable of definitioa ; for a definition ought to com- 
prehend the whole n9.ture or eflence of the thing defined. 

Thus, Weftminfter bridge is an individual objedt ; though I had 
never feen or heard of it before, if I am only made to conceive that 
it is a bridge from Wefl:minfter over the Thames, this conception, 
Jiowever imperfedl, is true, and is fufficient to make me diftinguifli 
it, when it is mentioned, from every other objedl that exifl:s. 
The architedl may have an adequate conception of its ft;ru(5ture, 
■ which is the work of man ; but of the materials which are the 
work of God, no man has an adequate conception ; and there- 
fore, thojigh the objedl may bedefcribed, it cannot be defined. 

Univerfals are always exprefled by general words ; and all the 
words of language, excepting proper names, are general words ; 
they are the figns of general conceptions, or of fome circumft:ance 
relating to them. Thefe general conceptions are formed for the 
purpofe of language and reafoning ; and the objedl from which 
they are taken, and to which they are intended to agree, is the 
conception which other men join to the fame words ; they may 
therefore be adequate, and perfedlly agree with the thing conceived. 
This implies no more than that men who fpeak the fame language 
,may perfedly agree in the meaning of many general words. 

Thus Mathematicians have conceived what they call a plane 
triangle : They have defined it accurately ; and when I conceive it 




to be a plane furface, bounded by three right lines, I have both a CHAP. L 
true and an adequate conception of it. There is nothing belong- 
ing to a plane triangle which is not comprehended in this concep- 
tion of it, or deducible from it by juft reafoning. This definition 
exprefles the whole effence of the thing defined, as every juft defi- 
nition ought to do; but this effence is only what Mr Locke very 
properly calls a nominal effence ; it is a general conception formed 
by the mind, and joined to a general word as its fign. 

If all the general words of a language had a precife meaning, 
and were perfedlly underftood, as mathematical terms are, all ver- 
bal difputes would be at an end, and men would never feem to 
differ in opinion, but when they differ in reality ; but this is far 
from being the cafe. The meaning of moft general words is not 
learned like that of mathematical terms, by an accurate definition, 
but by the experience we happen to have, by hearing them ufed in 
converfation. From fuch experience we colledl their meaning by 
a kind of indu(5lion ; and as this indudlion is for the moft part 
lame and imperfedl, it happens that different perfons join different - 
conceptions to the fame general word ; and though we intend to 
give them the meaning which ufe, the arbiter of language, has put 
upon them, this is difficult to find, and apt to be miftaken, even 
by the candid and attentive. Hence, in innumerable difputes, men 
do not really differ in their judgments, but in the way of expreffing 

Our conceptions, therefore, appear to be of three kinds : They are 
either the conceptions of individual things, the creatures of God ; 
or they are conceptions of the meaning of general words ; or they 
are the creatures of our own imagination; and thefe different kinds 
have different properties which we have endeavoured to defcribe. 

5. Our cqnception of things may be ftrong and lively, or it 
may be faint and languid in all degrees. Thefe are qualities which 
properly belong to our conceptions, though we have no names for 

A a a them 



CH AP. I.^ them but fuch as are analogical. Every man is confcious of fuch 
a difference in his conceptions, and finds his lively conceptions moft 
agreeable, when the objedl is not of fuch a nature as to give pain. 

Thofe who have lively conceptions, commonly exprefs them in a 
lively manner, that is, in fuch a manner as to raife lively conceptions 
and emotions in others. Such perfons are the moft agreeable com- 
panions in converfation, and the moft acceptable in their writings. 

The livelinefs of our conceptions proceeds from different caufes. 
Some objefls from their own nature, or from accidental afTociations, 
are apt to raife ftrong emotions in the mind. Joy and hope, am- 
bition, zeal, and refentment, tend to enliven our conceptions : Dif^ 
appointment, difgrace, grief, and envy, tend rather to flatten them. 
Men of keen pafHons are commonly lively and agreeable in conver- 
fation ; and difpafhonate men often make dull companions : There 
is in fome men a natural ftrength and vigour of mind, which gives 
rtrength to their conceptions on all fubjedts, and in all the occa- 
fional variations of temper. 

It feems eafier to form a lively conception of objedls that are fa- 
miliar, than of thofe that are not; our conceptions of viiible objedls 
are commonly the moft lively, when other circumltances are equal : 
Hence Poets not only delight in the defcription of vifible obje(fls, 
but find means by metaphor, analogy, and allufion, to clothe every 
objeAv they defcribe with vifible qualities: The lively conception 
of thefe makes the obje<5t appear, as it were, before our eyes. Lord 
Kames, in his Elements of Critic ifm, has fhewn of what import- 
ance it is in works of tafte, to give to objects defcribed, what he 
calls ideal prefence. To produce this in the mind, is indeed the 
capital aim of poetical and rhetorical defcription. It carries the 
man, as it were, out of himfelf, and makes him a fpedtator of the 
fcene defcribed. This ideal prefence feems to me to be nothing 
elfe but a lively conception of the appearance which the obje<5t 
would make if really prefent to the eye. 



Abftra<El and general conceptions are never lively, though they CHAP. I.^ » 
may be diftindl ; and therefore, however neceflary in philofophy, 
feldom enter into poetical defcription, without being particularifed 
or clothed in forae vifible drefs. 

It may be obferved, however, that our conceptions of vifible ob^ 
je(5ls become more lively by giving them motion, and more ftill by 
giving them life, and intelletflual qualities. Hence in poetry, the 
whole creation is animated, and endowed with fenfe and reflc(5lion. 

Imagination, when it is diftinguifhed from conception, feems to 
me to fignify one fpecies of conception ; to wit, the conception of 
vifible objects. Thus, in a mathematical propofition, I imagine 
the figure, and I conceive the demonflration ; it would not I think 
be improper to fay, I conceive both ; but it would not be fo proper 
to fay, I imagine the demonftration. 

6. Our conceptions of things may be clear, diftindV, and fteady ; 
or they may be obfcure, indiftindl, and wavering. The livelinefs 
of our conceptions gives pleafure, but it is their dillindnefs and 
fleadinefs that enables us to judge right, and to exprefs our fenti- 
ments with perfpicuity. 

If we enquire into the caufe, why among perfons fpeaking or 
writing on the fame fubjedl, we find in one fo much darknefs, in 
another fo much perfpicuity ; I believe the chief caufe will be found 
to be, that one had a diftindl and fteady conception of what he 
faid or wrote, and the other had not : Men generally find means 
to exprefs diftindlly what they have conceived diftindlly. Horace 
obferves, that proper words fpontaneoufly follow diftindl concep- 
tions. " Verbaque provifam rem non invita fcquuntuu^ But it is im- 
poflible that a man lliould diftindly exprefs what he has not di- 
(lin611y conceived. 

We are commonly taught that perfpicuity depends upon a pro- 

A a a 2 per 

372 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP. r. per choice of words, a proper flrudlure of fentences, and a proper 
order in the whole compofition. All this is very true, but it fup- 
pofes di{lin(5lnefs in our conceptions, without which there can be 
neither propriety in our words, nor in the ftrudure of our fen- 
tences, nor in our method. 

Nay, I apprehend, that indiftindl conceptions of things are, for 
the moft part, the caufe not only of obfcurity in writing and 
ipeaking, but of error in judging. 

Muft not they who conceive things in the fame manner form' 
the fame judgment of their agreements and difagreements ? Is it 
pofTible for two perfons to differ with regard to the conclufion of 
a fyUogifm who have the fame conception of the premifes ? 

Some perfons find it difficult to enter into a mathematical de- 
monftration. I believe we fhall always find the reafon to be, that 
they do not diftin<5lly apprehend it. A man cannot be convinced 
by what he does not under (land. On the other hand, I think a 
man cannot underftand a demonftration without feeing the force 
of it. I fpeak of fuch demon flratipns as thofe of Euclid, where 
every (lep is fet down, and nothing left to be fupplied by the 

Sometimes one who has got through the firft four books of 
Euclid's Elements, and fees the force of the demonftrations, finds 
difficulty in the fifth. What is the reafon of this ? You may 
find, by a little converfation with him, that he has not a clear 
and fteady conception of ratios and of the terms relating to them. 
When the terms ufed in the fifth book have become familiar, and 
readily excite in his mind a clear and fteady conception of their 
meaning, you may venture to affirm that he will be able to un- 
derftand the demonftrations of that book, and to fee the force of 




If this be really the cafe, as it feems to be, it leads us to think CHAP^ 
that men are very much upon a level with regard to mere judg- 
ment, when we take that faculty apart from the apprehenfion or 
conception of the things about which we judge ; fo that a found 
judgment feems to be the infeparable companion of a clear and 
fteady apprehenfion : And we ought not to confider thefe two as 
talents, of which the one may fall to the lot of one man, and the 
other to the lot of another, but as talents which always go together. 

It may, however, be obferved, that fome of our conceptions 
may be more fubfervient to reafoning than others which are 
equally clear and diftin<5l. It was before obferved, that fome of 
our conceptions are of individual things, others of things gene- 
ral and abflra(5l. It may happen, that a man who has very clear 
conceptions of things individual, is not fo happy in thofe of things 
general and abftrac^. And this I take to be the reafon why we 
find men who have good judgment in matters of common life, • 
and perhaps good talents for poetical or rhetorical compofition,. 
who find it very difficult to enter into abilrad reafoning, 

That I may not appear fingular in putting men fo much upor» 
a level in point of mere judgment, I beg leave to fupport this 
opinion by the authority of two very thinking men, Des Cartes 
and Cicero. The former, in his diflfertation on method, ex- 
prefTes himfelf to this purpofe : " Nothing is fo equally diftributed 
among men as judgment. Wherefore it feems reafonable to be- 
lieve, that the power of diftinguifliing what is true from what is 
falfe, (which we properly call judgment or right reafon), is by nar 
ture equal in all men ; and therefore that the diverfity of our opi- 
nions does not arife from one perfon being endowed with a greater 
power of reafon than another, but only from this, that we do not 
lead our thoughts in the fame track, nor attend to the fame things." 

Cicero, in his third book De Oratore, makes this obfervationj 
** It is wonderful, when the learned and unlearned differ fo much 


374 ESSAY IV. 

CHAP. L in jjj.f^ i^o^ }ji-tle tiiey differ in judgment. For art being derived 
from Nature, is good for nothing, unlefs it move and delight 

From what has been faid in this article, it follows, that it is fo 
far in our power to write and fpeak perfpicuoufly, and to reafon 
juftly, as it is in our power to form clear and diftindl conceptions 
of the fubjecl on which we fpeak or reafon. And though Nature 
hath put a wide difference between one man and another in this 
refpedl, yet that it is in a very confiderable degree in our power to 
have clear and diftindl apprehenfions of things about which we 
think and reafon, cannot be doubted. 

7. It has been obferved by many authors, that, when we barely 
conceive any objedl, the ingredients of that conception muft either 
be things with which we were before acquainted by fome other 
original power of the mind, or they muft be parts or attributes of 
fuch things. Thus a man cannot conceive colours, if he never 
faw, nor founds, if he never heard. If man had not a confcience, 
he could not conceive what is meant by moral obligation, or by 
right and wrong in condud. 

Fancy may combine things that never were combined in reality. 
It may enlarge or dlminilh, multiply or divide, compound and fa- 
fliion the objedls which Nature prefents ; but it cannot, by the 
utmoft effort of that creative Power which we afcribe to it, bring 
any one fimple ingredient into its produdions, which Nature has 
not framed, and brought to our knowledge by fome other faculty. 

This Mr Locke has expreffed as beautifully as juftly. The do- 
minion of man, in this little world of his own underftanding, is 
-much the fame as in the great world of vifible things ; wherein 
his power, however managed by art and Ikill, reaches no farther 
than to compound and divide the materials that are made to his 
Ixand, but can do nothing towards making the leaft particle of mat- 


ter, or deftroying one atom that is already in being. The fame CHARL 
inabiUty will every one find in himfelf, to fafliion in his under- 
(landing any fimple idea not received by the powers which God 
has given him. 

I think all Philofophers agree in this fentiment. Mr Hume, in- 
deed, after acknowledging the truth of the principle in general, 
mentions what he thinks a fingle exception to it. That a man, 
who had feen all the fhades of a particular colour except one, might 
frame in his mind a conception of that £hade which he never faw. 
I think this is not an exception ; becaufe a particular fhade of a co- 
lour differs not fpecifically, but only in degree, from other Ihades 
of the fame colour. 

It is proper to obferve, that our moll fimple conceptions are not 
thofe which Nature immediately prefents to us. When we come 
to years of underftanding, we have the power of analyfing the ob- 
jedls of Nature, of diftinguifhing their feveral attributes and rela- 
tions, of conceiving them one by one, and of giving a name to 
each, whofe meaning extends only to that fingle attribute or rela- 
tion : And thus our moft fimple conceptions are not thofe of any 
objed\ in nature, but of fome fingle attribute or relation of fuch. 

Thus Nature prefents to our fenfes, bodies that are extended in. 
three dimenfions, and folid. By analyfing the notion we have of 
body from our fenfes, we form to ourfelves the conceptions of ex- 
tenfion, folidity, fpace, a point, a line, a furface ; all which are 
more fimple conceptions than that of a body. But they are the 
elements, as it were, of which our conception of a body is made 
up, and into which it may be analyfed. This pov/er of analyfing 
objedls we propofe to confider particularly in another place. It is 
only mentioned here, that what is faid in this article may not be 
underftood, fo as to be inconfillent with it. 

8. Though 

376 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP. I.^ g^ Though our conceptions muft be confined to the ingredients 
mentioned in the laft article, we are unconfined with regard to the 
arrangement of thofe ingredients. Here we may pick and chufe, 
and form an endlefs variety of combinations and compofitlons, 
which we call creatures of the imagination. Thefe may be clear- 
ly conceived, though they never exifted : And indeed every thing 
that is made, muft have been conceived before it was made. Every 
work of human art, and every plan of condudt, whether in public 
or in private life, muft have been conceived before it is brought to 
execution. And we cannot avoid thinking, that the Almighty, 
before he created the univerfe by his power, had a diftindl con- 
ception of the whole and of every part, and faw it to be good, 
and agreeable to his intention. 

* It is the bufinefs of man, as a rational creature, to employ this 

unlimited power of conception, for planning his condudl and en- 
larging his knowledge. It feems to be peculiar to beings endow- 
ed with reafon to a6l by a preconceived plan. Brute animals feem 
either to want this power, or to have it in a very low degree. 
They are moved by inftindi, habit, appetite, or natural affedlion, 
according as thefe principles are ftirred by the prefent occafion. 
But I fee no reafon to think that they can propofe to themfelves a 
connedled plan of life, or form general rules of condudl. Indeed, 
we fee that many of the human fpecies, to whom God has given 
this power, make little ufe of it. They adl without a plan, as the 
paffion or appetite which is ftrongeft at the time leads them. 

9. The laft property I Ihali mention of this faculty, is that 
which effentially diftinguiflies it from every other power of the 
mind ; and it is, that it is not employed folely about things which 
have exiftence. I can conceive a winged horfe or a centaur, as eafily 
and as diftin(5lly as I can conceive a man whom I have feen. Nor 
.does this diftindl conception incline my judgment in the leaft to the 
belief, that a winged horfe or a centaur ever exifted. 



It is not fo with the other operations of our minds. They are chap. l. 

^ \l I III ^y 111 11^ 

employed about real exiftences, and carry with them the belief of 
their objecfls. When I feel pain, I am compelled to believe that 
the pain that I feel has a real exiftence. When I perceive any ex- 
ternal objecSt, my belief of the real exiftence of the objedl is irre- 
fiftible. When I diftinclly remember any event, though that event 
may not now exift, I can have no doubt but it did exifl. That 
confcioufnefs which we have of the operations of our own minds 
implies a belief of the real exiftence of thofe operations. 

Thus we fee, that the powers of fenfation, of perception,' of 
memory, and of confcioufnefs, are all employed folely about ob- 
jedls that do exilj, or have exifted. But conception is often em- 
ployed about objedls that neither do, nor did, nor will exift. This 
is the very nature of this faculty, that its objedl, though diftindly 
conceived, may have no exiftence. Such an objedl we call a crea- 
ture of imagination j but this creature never was created. 

. That we may not impofe upon ourfelves in this matter, we muft 
diftinguifti between that adl or operation of the mind, which we 
call conceiving an objedl, and the objedt which we conceive. 
When we conceive any thing, there is a real adl or operation of 
the mind ; of this we are confcious, and can have no doubt of its 
exiftence : But every fuch adt muft have an obje(5l ; for he that 
conceives, muft conceive fomething. Suppofe he conceives a cen- 
taur, he may have a diftindl conception of this objed, though no 
centaur ever exifted. 

I am afraid, that, to thofe who are unacquainted with the dodlrine 
of Philofophers upon this fubjedl, I fliall appear in a very ridicu- 
lous light, for infifting upon a point fo very evident, as that men 
may barely conceive things that never exifted. They will hardly 
believe, that any man in his wits ever doubted of it. Indeed, I 
know no truth more evident to the common fenfe and to the expe- 
rience of mankind. , But if the authority of philofophy, ancient 

B b b and 

378 ESSAY IV, 

CHAP. II. and modern, oppofes it, as I think it does, I wifh not to treat that 
authority fo faftidioufly, as not to attend patiently to what may be 
faid in fupport of it. 


Theories concerning Conception. 

TH E theory of ideas has been applied to the conception of 
objecfls as well as to perception and memory. Perhaps it will 
be irkfome to the reader, as it is to the writer, to return to that 
fubje<5l, after fo much has been faid upon it ; but its application to 
the conception of objedls, which could not properly have been in- 
troduced before, gives a more coraprehenfive view of it, and of 
the prejudices which have led Philofophers fo unanlmoufly into it. 

There are two prejudices which feem to me to have given rife to 
the theory of ideas in all the various forms in which it has ap- 
peared in the courfe of above two thoufand years ; and though 
they have no fupport from the natural dictates of our faculties, or 
from attentive refle(5lion upon their operations, they are prejudices 
which thofe who fpeculate upon this fubjedl, are very apt to be led 
into by analogy. 

Thtjirjl is, That in all the operations of the underflanding there 
mufi: be fome immediate intercourfe between the mind and its ob- 
jedl, fo that the one may adl upon the other. Thtfecond^ That in all 
the operations of underflanding there mufl be an objed: of thought, 
which really exifls while we think of it; or, as fome Philofophers 
have exprefled it, that which is not, cannot be intelligible. 

Had Philofophers perceived, that thefe are prejudices grounded 
only upon analogical reafoning, we had never heard of ideas in the 
philofophical fenfe of that word. 



The firfl of thefe principles has led Philofophers to think, that CHAP. IL 
as the external objeds of fenfe are too remote to adl upon the mind 
immediately, there mufl: be fome image or fliadow of them that is 
prefent to the mind, and is the immediate objedl of perception. 
That there is fuch an immediate objedt of perception, diftin<5t from 
the external objed:, has been very unanimoufly held by Philofo- 
phers, though they have differed much about the name,' the na- 
ture, and the origin of thofe immediate objefls. 

We have confidered what has been faid in the fupport of this 
principle, Eflay II. chap. 14. to which the reader is referred, to 
prevent repetition. 

I fhall only add to what is there faid. That there appears no Iha- 
dow of reafon why the mind muft have an objedl immediately pre- 
fent to it in its intelle(5lual operations, any more than in its afFedions 
and paffions. Philofophers have not faid, that ideas are the imme- 
diate obje(51:s of love or refentment, of efleem or difapprobation. 
It is, I think, acknowledged, that perfons and not ideas are the 
immediate objedls of thofe affedlions ; perfons, who are as far from 
being immediately prefent to the mind as other external objedls, 
and fometimes perfons who have now no exiftence in this world at 
leaft, and who can neither adl upon the mind, nor be aded upon 
by it. 

The fecond principle, which I conceive to be likewife a prejudice 
of Philofophers grounded upon analogy, is now to be confidered. 

It contradids diredlly what was laid down in the lafl: article of 
the preceding chapter, to wit, that we may have a diftind concep- 
tion of things which never exifted. This is undoubtedly the com- 
mon belief of thofe who have not been inftruded in philofophy ; 
and they will think it as ridiculous to defend it by reafoning, as to 
oppofe it. 

B b b 2 The 

38o E S S A Y IV. 

^HAP. 11.^ The Phllofopher fays, Though there may be a remote objecfl 
which does not exlft, there mud be an immediate objedl which 
really exifls ; for that which is not, cannot be an object of thought. 
The idea muft be perceived by the mind, and if it does not exifl 
there, there can be no perception of it, no operation of the mind 
about it. 

This principle deferves the more to be examined, becaufe the 
other before mentioned depends upon it ; for although the laft may 
be true, even if the firft was falfe, yet if the laft be not true, nei- 
ther can the firft : If we can conceive objedls which have no exift- 
ence, it follows, that there may be objeds of thought which nei- 
ther adl upon the mind, nor are adled upon by it ; becaufe that 
which has no exiftence can neither a6t nor be adled upon. 

It is by thefe principles that Philofophers have been led to think, 
that in every adl of memory and of conception, as well as of per- 
ception, there are two objedts. The one, the immediate objecl, the 
idea, the fpecies, the form : The other, the mediate or external 
objedl. The vulgar know only of one objedl, which in perception 
is fomething external that exifts ; in memory, fomething that did 
exift ; and in conception, may be fomething that never exifted : 
But the immediate objedl of the Philofophers, the idea, is faid to 
exift, and to be perceived in all thefe operations. 

Thefe principles have not only led Philofophers to fplit objedls 
into two, where others can find but one, but likewife have led 
them to reduce the three operations now mentioned to one, making 
memory and conception, as well as perception, to be the perception 
of ideas. But nothing appears more evident to the vulgar, than 
that, what is only remembered, or only conceived, is not perceived j 
and to fpeak of the perceptions of memory, appears to them as ab- 
furd, as to fpeak of the hearing of fight. 

In a word, thefe two principles carry us into the whole philefo- 



phical theory of ideas, and furnifli every argument that ever was CHAP. IL 
ufed for their exiftence. If they are true, that fyflem muft be ad- 
mitted with all its confequences : If they are only prejudices, 
grounded upon analogical reafoning, the whole fyftem muft fall to 
the ground with them. 

It is, therefore, of importance to trace thofe principles, as far 
as we are able, to their origin, and to fee, if poffible, whether 
they have any juft foundation in reafon, or whether they are rafii 
conclufions, drawn from a fuppofed analogy between matter and 

The unlearned, who are guided by the didlates of Nature, and 
exprefs what they are confcious of concerning the operations of 
their own mind, believe, that the object which they diftindlly per- 
ceive certainly exifts ; that the objedl which they diftindlly remem- 
ber certainly did exift, but now may not ; but as to things that 
are barely conceived, they know that they can conceive a thou- 
fand things that never exifted, and that the bare conception of a 
thing does not fo much as afford a prefumption of its exiftence. 
They give themfelves no trouble to know how thefe operations are 
performed, or to account for them from general principles. 

But Philofophers, who wifh to difcover the caufes of things, 
and to account for thefe operations of mind, obferving, that in 
other operations there muft be not only an agent, but fomething 
to aft upon, have been led by analogy to conclude that it muft be 
fo in the operations of the mind. 

The relation between the mind and its conceptions bears a very 
ftrong and obvious analogy to the relation between a man and 
his work. Every fcheme he forms, every difcovery he makes by 
his reafoning powers, is very properly called the work of his 
mind. Thefe works of the mind are fometimes great and im- 
portant works, and draw the attention and adiniration of men. 


382 ESSAY IV. 

CHAP. ir. It is the province of the Philofopher to conficler how fuch works 
of the mind arc produced, and of what materials they are com- 
pofed. He calls the materials ideas. There muft therefore be 
ideas, which the mind can arrange and form into a regular ftruc- 
ture. Every thing that is produced, muft be produced of fome- 
thing ; and from nothing, nothing can be produced. 

Some fuch reafoning as this feems to me to have given the firft 
rife to the philofophical notions of ideas. Thofe notions were 
formed into a fyftem by the Pythagoreans two thoufand years 
ago; and this fyftem was adopted by Plato, and embelliftied 
with all the powers of a fine and lofty imagination. I fhall, in 
compliance with cuftom, call it the Platonic fyftem of ideas, 
though in reality it was the invention of the Pythagorean fchool. 

The moft arduous queftion which employed the wits of men in 
the infancy of the Grecian philofophy was, What was the origin 
of the world ? From what principles and caufes did it proceed ? 
To this queftion very different anfwers were ^iven in the different 
fchools. Moft of them appear to us very ridiculous. The Py- 
thagoreans, however, judged very rationally, from the order and 
beauty of the univerfe, that it muft be the workmanftiip of an 
eternal, intelligent and good Being : And therefore they concluded 
the Deity to be one firft principle or caufe of the univerfe. 

But they conceived there muft be more. The univerfe muft 
be made of fomething. Every workman muft have materials to 
work upon. That the world fliould be made out of nothing feem- 
ed to them abfurd, becaufe every thing that is made muft be made 
of fomething. 

Nullum rem e nib'tlo gignt dlv'initus iinquam. LucR. 
De nihilo nihil y in nihilum tiil pojfe reverti. Pers. 

This maxim never was brought into doubt; Even in Cicero's 



time it continued to be held by all Philofophers. What natural CHAP. II. 
Philofopher (fays that author in his fecond book of Divination) 
ever afTerted that any thing could take its rife from nothing, or 
be reduced to nothing ? Becaufe men mufl: have materials to work 
upon, they concluded it muft be fo with the Deity. This was 
reafoning from analogy. 

From this it followed, that an eternal uncreated matter was 
another firft principle of the vmiverfe. But this matter they be- 
lieved had no form nor quality. It was the fame with the materia 
prima^ or firft matter of Aristotle, who borrowed this part of 
his philofophy from his predecefTors. 

To us it feems more rational to think that the Deity created 
matter with its qualities, than that the matter of the univerfe 
fhould be eternal and felf-exiftent. But fo ftrong was the preju- 
dice of the ancient Philofophers againft what we call creation, that 
they rather chofe to have recourfe to this eternal and unintelligible 
matter, that the Deity might have materials to work upon. 

The fame analogy which led them to think that there muft be 
an eternal matter of which the world was made, led them alfo to 
conclude that there muft be an eternal pattern or model accordhig 
to which it was, made. Works of defign and art muft be di- 
ftindlly conceived before they are made. The Deity, as an intelli- 
gent Being, about to execute a work of perfect beauty and regu- 
larity, muft have had a diftindl conception of his work before it 
was made. This appears very rational. 

But this conception, being the work of the Divine intelledl, 
fomething muft have exifted as its obje<5l. This could only be 
ideas, which are the proper and immediate objedl of intellect. 

From this inveftlgation of the principles or caufes of the uni- 
verfe, thofe Philofophers concluded them to be three in number, 


384 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP. 11.^ (Q yf\i^ an eternal matter as the material caufe, eternal ideas as the 
model or exemplary caufe, and an eternal intelligent mind as the 
efficient caufe. 

As to the nature of thofe eternal ideas, the Philofophers of that 
fe6l afcribed to them the mofl magnificent attributes. They were 
immutable and uncreated ; the objecl of the Divine intellecft be- 
fore the world was made; and the only objedl of intelledl and 
of fcience to all intelligent beings. As far as inteliedl is fuperior 
to fenfe, fo far are ideas fuperior to all the objedls of fenfe. The 
objedls of fenfe being in a conftant flux, cannot properly be 
faid to exift. Ideas are the things which have a real and perma- 
nent exiftence. They are as various as the fpecies of things, there 
being one idea of every fpecies, but none of individuals. The 
idea is the eflence of the fpecies, and exifbed before any of the 
fpecies was made. It is entire in every individual of the fpecies, 
without being either divided or multiplied. 

In our prefent ftate, we have but an imperfedl conception of the 
eternal ideas ; but it is the higheft felicity and perfedion of men 
to be able to contemplate them. While we are in this prifon of 
the body, fenfe, as a dead weight, bears us down from the con- 
templation of the intelledlual objects ; and it is only by a due pu- 
rification of the foul, and abftradlion from fenfe, that the intellec- 
tual eye is opened, and that we are enabled to mount upon the 
wings of intelledl to the celeftial world of ideas. 

Such was the moll ancient fyftem concerning ideas, of which 
we have any account. And however different from the modern, 
it appears to be built upon the prejudices we have mentioned ; to 
wit, that in every operation, there muft be fomething to work up- 
on ; and that even in conception there mufl be an obje(fl which 
really exifts. 

For if thofe ancient Philofophers had thought it poffible that the 



Deity could operate without materials in the formation of the ^CHAP. if . 
world, and that he could conceive the plan of it without a model, 
they could have feen no reafon to make matter and ideas eternal and 
necefTarily exiftent principles, as well as the Deity himfelf. 

Whether they believed that the ideas were not only eternal, but 
eternally, and without a caufe, arranged in that beautiful and per- 
fect order, which they afcribe to this intelligible world of ideas, I 
cannot fay ; but this feems to be a neceflary confequencc of the 
fyftem : For if the Deity could not conceive the plan of the world 
which he made, without a model which really exifted, that model 
could not be his work, nor contrived by his wifdom ; for if he 
made it, he muft have conceived it before it was made ; it mufl 
therefore have exifted in all its beauty and order independent of 
the Deity ; and this I think they acknowledged, by making the 
model, and the matter of this world, firft principles, no lefs than 
the Deity. 

If the Platonic fyftem be thus underftood, (and I do not fee how 
it can hang together otherwife), it leads to two confequences that 
are unfavourable to it. 

Fir/fy Nothing is left to the Maker of this world but the Iklll to 
work after a model. The model had all the perfedlion and beauty 
that appears in the copy, and the Deity had only to copy after a 
pattern that exifted independent of him. Indeed, the copy, if we 
believe thofe Philofophers, falls very far fliort of the original ; but 
this they feem to have afcribed to the refradiorinefs of matter, of 
which it was made. 

Secondly, If the world of ideas, without being the work of a 
perfedlly wife and good intelligent Being, could have fo much 
beavicy and perfe(5lion, how can we infer from the beauty and or- 
der of this world, which is but an imperfed: copy of the other, 
that it muft have been made by a perfedly wife and good Being ? 

C c c The . 

386 ESSAY IV. 

CIIAF. 11.^ Yhe force of this reafoning, from the beauty and order of the uni- 
verfe, to its being the work of a wife Being, which appears invin- 
cible to every candid mind, and appeared fo to thofe ancient. Phi- 
lofophers, is entirely deftroyed by the fuppofition of the exiflencc 
of a world of ideas, of greater perfection and beauty, which ne- 
ver was made. Or, if the reafoning be good, it will apply to the 
world of ideas, which muft of confequence have been made by a 
wife and good intelligent Being, and muft have been conceived be- 
fore it was made. 

It may farther be obferved, that all that is myfterious and unin- 
telligible in the Platonic ideas, arifes from attributing exiftence to 
them. Take away this one attribute, all the reft," however pom- 
poufly expreffed, are eafily admitted and underftood. 

What is a Platonic idea ? It is the elTence of a fpecies. It is the 
exemplar, the model, according to which, all the individuals of 
that fpecies are made. It is entire in every individual of the fpe- 
cies, without being multiplied or divided. It was an obje(5l of 
the Divine intelledl from eternity, and is an obje<5l of contemplation 
and of fcience to every intelligent being. It is eternal, immutable, 
and uncreated ; and, to crown all, it not only exifts, but has a more 
feal and permanent exiftence than any thing that ever God made. 

Take this defcription altogether, and it would require an Oedi- 
pus to unriddle it. But take away the laft part of it, and no- 
thing is more eafy. It is eafy to find five hundred things which 
anfwer to every article in the defcription except the laft. 

Take for an inftance the nature of a circle, as it is defined by 
Euclid, an obje<fl which every intelligent being may conceive di- 
ftindlly, though no circle had ever cxifted; it is the exemplar, the 
model, according to which all the individual figures of that fpe- 
cies that ever exifted were made; for they are all made according 
to the nature of a circle. It is entire in every individual of the 



fpecies, without being multiplied or divided : For every circle is CH AP. IL 
an entire circle ; and all circles, in as far as they are circles, have 
one and the fame nature. It was an objed: of the Divine intelledl 
from all eternity, and may be an objedl of contemplation and of 
fcience to every intelligent being. It is the efTence of a fpecies, 
and, like all other eflences, it is eternal, immutable, and uncrea- 
ted. This means no more, but that a circle always was a circle, 
and can never be any thing but a circle. It is the neceility of the 
thing, and not any ad of creating power, that makes a circle to 
be a circle. 

The nature of every fpecies, whether of fubftance, of quality, 
or of relation, and in general every thing which the ancients called 
an univerfal, anfwers to the defcription of a Platonic idea, if in 
that defcription you leave out the attribute of exiftence. 

If we believe that no fpecies of things could be conceived by 
the Almighty without a model that really exifted, we muft go back 
to the Platonic fyftem, however myfterious^ But if it be true, 
that the Deicy could have a diftindl conception of things which did 
not exift, and that other intelligent beings may conceive objedls 
which do not exift, the fyftem has no better foundation than this 
prejudice, that the operations of mind muft be like thofe of the body. 

Aristotle rejedled the ideas of his mafter Plato as vifionary; 
but he retained the prejudices that gave rife to them, and therefore 
fubftituted fomething in their place, but under a different name, 
and of a different origin. 

He called the objeds of intelledl, intelligible fpecies ; thofe of the 
memory and imagination, phantafms, and thofe of the fenfes, fen- 
fible fpecies. This change of the name was indeed very fmall ; for 
the Greek word of Aristotle, which we tranflate^^f/Vj orform^ 
is fo near to the Greek word idea, both in its found and fignifica- 
tion, that, from their etymology, it would not be eafy to give 

C c c 2 them 

388 ESSAY IV. 

CHAP. 11.^ them different meanings. Both are derived from the Greek word 
which fignifies to fee., and both may fignify a vifion or appearance 
to the eye. Cicero, who underftood Greek well, often tranflates 
the Greek word idea by the Latin word vifio. But both words be- 
ing ufed as terms of art, one in the Platonic fyflem, the other in 
the Peripatetic, the Latin writers generally borrowed the Greek 
word idea to exprefs the Platonic notion, and tranflated Ari- 
stotle's word, by the -wordis /pecks ov forma ; and in this they 
have been followed in the modern languages. 

Thofe forms or fpecies were called intelligible, to diftinguifli 
them from fenfible fpecies, which Aristotle held to be the im- 
mediate objeds of fenfe. 

He thought that the fenfible fpecies come from the external ob- 
ject, and defined a feufe to be that which has the capacity to re- 
ceive the form of fenfible things without the matter ; as wax re- 
ceives the form of a feal without any of the matter of it. In like 
manner, he thought that the intelledl receives the forms of things 
intelligible, and he calls it the place of forms. 

I take it to have been the opinion of Aristotle, that the intel- 
ligible forms in the human intelle(5l are derived from the fenfible by 
abftradlion, and other operations of the mind itfelf. As to the in- 
telligible forms in the divine intelle(ft, they muft have had another 
origin ; but I do not remember that he gives any opinion about 
them. He certainly maintained, however, that there is no intel- 
ledlion without intelligible fpecies ; no memory or imagination 
without phantafms ; no perception without fenfible fpecies. Treat- 
ing of memory he propofes a difficulty, and endeavours to refolve 
it, how a phantafm, that is a prefent objecft in the mind, fhould 
reprefent a thing that is paft. 

Thus, I think, it appears, that the Peripatetic fyflem of fpecies 
and phantafms, as well as the Platonic fyftem of ideas, is grounded 



upon this principle, that in every kind of thought there niuft be CHAP. IL 
fome obje(5t that really exifts ; in every operation of the mind, fome- 
thing to work upon. Whether this immediate objedl be called an 
idea veith Plato, or a phantafm or fpecies with Aristotle ; 
whether it be eternal and uncreated, or produced by the impref- 
fions of external objedts^ is of no confequence in the prefent argu- 
ment. In both fyflems it was thought impofllble, that the Deity 
could make the world without matter to work upon. In both it 
was thought impofllble, that an intelligent Being could conceive 
any thing that did not exifh, but by means of a model that really 

The Philofophers of the Alexandrian fchool, commonly called 
the latter Platonifls, conceived the eternal ideas of things to be in 
the Divine intelle<5l, and thereby avoided the abfurdity of making 
them a principle diftin(5l from and independent of the Deity; but 
ftill they held them to exift really in the Divine mind as the objeds 
of conception, and as the patterns and archetypes of things that are 

Modern Philofophers, ftill perfuaded that of every thought there 
mufl be an immediate objedl that really exifts, have not thought 
it necelTary to diftinguifti by different names the immediate objects 
of intelled, of imagination, and of the fenfes, but have given the 
common name oi idea to them all. 

Whether thefe ideas be in the fenforium, or in the mind, or 
partly in the one, and partly in the other ; whether they exift when 
they are not perceived, or only when they are perceived; whether 
they are the workmanfliip of the Deity or of the mind itfelf, or of 
external natural caufes ; with regard to thefe points, different au- 
thors feem to have different opinions, and the fame author fo'me- 
times to waver or be diffident ; but as to their exiftence, there feems 
to be great unanimity. 


390 ESSAY IV. 


So much is this opinion fixed in the minds of Philo(bphers, that 
I doubt not but it will appear to mod a very ftrange paradox, or 
rather a con tradition that men Ihould think without ideas. 

That it has the appearance of a coutradidion, I confefs. But 
this appearance arifes from the ambiguity of the word idea. If the 
idea of a thing means only the thought of it, or the operation of 
the mind in thinking about it, which is the moft common meaning 
of the word, to think without ideas, is to think without thought, 
which is undoubtedly a contradicflion. 

But an idea according to the definition given of it by Philofo- 
phers, is not thought, but an objecfl of thought, which really exifts, 
and is perceived. Now whether is it a contradi(5lion to fay, that 
a man may think of an objedl that does not exift ? 

I acknowledge that a man cannot perceive an objeclil that does 
not exift ; nor can he remember an objedl that did not exift ; but 
there appears to me no contradicflion in his conceiving an obje«5l 
that neither does, nor ever did exift. 

Let us take an example. I conceive a centaur. This conception 
is an operation of the mind, of which I am confcious, and to 
which I can attend. The fole objecfk of it is a centaur, an animal 
which I believe never exifted. I can fee no contradidlion in this. 

The Philofopher fays, I cannot conceive a centaur without 
having an idea of it in my mind. I am at a lofs to underftand 
what he means. He furely does not mean that I cannot conceive* 
it without conceiving it. This would make me no wifer. What 
then is this idea ? Is it an animal, half horfe and half man ? No. 
Then I am certain it is not the thing I conceive. Perhaps he will " 
fay, that the idea is an image of the animal, and is the immediate 
obje<5l of my conception, and that the animal is the mediate or 
remote objecfl. 



To this 1 anfwer : Firjiy I am certain there are not two objedls CHA?. IL 
of this conception, but one only ; and that one is as immediate an 
obje<5i: of my conception as any can be. 

Secondly^ This one objecfl which I conceive, is not the image of 
an animal, it is an animal. 1 know what it is to conceive an 
image of an animal, and what it is to conceive an animal ; and 
I can diftinguilh the one of thefe from the other without any 
danger of miftake. The thing I conceive is a body of a certain 
figure and colour, having life and fpontaneous motion. The Phi- 
lofopher fays that the idea is an image of the animal, but that it 
has neither body, nor colour, nor Hfe, nor fpontaneous motion. 
This I am not able to comprehend. 

Thirdly^ I wifh to know how this idea comes to be an objedl of 
my thought, when I cannot even conceive what it means ; and if 
I did conceive it, this would be no evidence of its exiflence, any 
more than my conception of a centaur is of its exiflence. Phi- 
lofophers fometimes fay that we perceive ideas, fometimes that we 
are confcious of them. I can have no doubt of the exiftence of * 

any thing, which I either perceive, or of which I am confcious ; 
but I cannot find that 1 either perceive ideas or am confcious of 

Perception and confcioufnefs are very different operations, and 
it is ftrange that Philofophers have never determined by which of 
them ideas are difcerned. This is as if a man fliould pofitively 
affirm that he perceived an objedl, but whether by his eyes, or his 
ears, or his touch, he could not fay. 

But may not a man who conceives a centaur fay, that he has a 
diftinft image of it in his mind ? I think he may. And if he 
means by this way of fpeaking what the vulgar mean, who never 
heard of the philofophical theory of ideas, I find no fault with it. 
By a di£lin(5l image in the mind, the vulgar mean a diflindl con- 
ception 'y 

393 E S S A Y IV. 


• ception ; and it is natural to call it fo, on account of the analogy 
between an image of a thing and the conception of it. On ac- 
count of this analogy, obvious to all mankind, this operation is 
called imagination, and an image in the mind is only a periphrafis 
for imagination. But to infer from this that there is really an 
image in the mind, diftindl from the operation of conceiving the 
obje<5t, is to be milled by an analogical expreffion ; as if, from the 
phrafes of deliberating and balancing things in the mind, we 
fliould infer that there is really a balance exifting in the mind for 
weighing motives and arguments. 

The analogical words and phrafes, ufed in all languages to ex- 
prefs conception, do no doubt facilitate their being taken in a literal 
fenfe. But if we only attend carefully to what we are confcious 
of in this operation, we (hall find no more reafon to think that 
images do really exift in our minds, than that balances and other 
mechanical engines do. 

We know of nothing that is in the mind but by confcioufnefs, 
and we are confcious of nothing but various modes of thinking ; 
fuch as underftanding, willing, aflfedlion, paffion, doing, fufFer- 
ing. If Philofophers chufe to give the name of an idea to any 
mode of thinking, of which we are confcious, I have no obje<5lion 
to the name ; but that it introduces a foreign word into our lan- 
guage without neceflity, and a word tliat is very ambiguous, and 
apt to miflead. But if they give that name to images in the mind, 
which are not thought, but only objects of thought, I can fee no 
reafon to think that there are fuch things in nature. If they be, 
their exiftence and their nature mufl be more evident than any 
thing elfe, becaufe we know nothing but by their means. I may 
add, that if they be, we can know nothing befides them. For, 
from the exiftence of images, we can never, by any juft reafoning, 
infer the exiftence of any thing elfe, unlefs perhaps the exiftence 
of an intelligent Author of them. In this Biihop Berkeley rea- 
foned right. 



In every work of defign, the work mufl: be conceived before it 
is executed, that is, before it exifls. If a model, confiding of 
ideas, mufl exift in the mind, as the object of this conception, 
that model is a work of defign no lefs than the otherj of which i,t 
is the model; and therefore, as a work of defign, it mufl have 
been conceived before it exifled. In every work of defign, there- 
fore, the conception mufl go before the exiflence. This argument 
we appHed before to the Platonic fyflem of eternal and immutable 
ideas, and it may be applied witli equal force to all the fyflems of 

If now it Ihould be afked. What is the idea of a circle ? I an- 
iwer, It is the conception of a circle. What is the immediate ob- 
je(5l of this conception ? The immediate and the only obje<5l of it 
is a circle. But where is this circle ? It is no where. If it was 
an individual, and had a real exiflence, it mufl have a place ; but 
being an univerfal, it has no exiflence, and therefore no place. Is 
it not in the mind of him that conceives it ? The conception of it 
is in the mind, being an adl of the mind ; and in common lan- 
guage, a thing being in the mind, is a figurative exprefhon, fig- 
nifying that the thing is conceived or remembered. 

•It may be aflced. Whether this conception is an image or refem- 
blance of a circle ? I anfwer, I have already accounted for its being, 
in a figurative fenfe, called the image of a circle in the mind. If 
the queflion is meant in the literal fenfe, we mufl obferve, that 
the word conception has two meanings. . Properly it fignifies that 
operation of the mind which we have been endeavouring to ex- 
plain ; but fotaetimes it is put for the obje<5l of conception, or thing 

Now, if the queflion be underftood in the lafl of thefe fenfes, 
the obje6l of this conception is not an image or refemblance of a 
circle ; for it is a circle, and nothing can be an image of itfelf. 

Ddd If 


394 ESSAY IV. 

CHAP, n.^ If []^g quefllon be, Whether the operation of mind in conceiving 
a circle be an image or relbmblance of a circle ? 1 think it is not ; 
and that no two things can be more perfedlly unlike, than a fpecies 
of thought and a fpecies of figure. " Nor is it more flrange that 
conception (hould have no refemblance to the objedl conceived, than 
that defire fhould have no refemblance to the obje6l defired, or re- 
fentment to the objedl of refentment. 

I can likewife conceive an individual objeifl: that really exifts, 
fuch as St Paul's church in London. I have an idea of it ; that is, 
I conceive it. The immediate objedl of this conception is four 
hundred miles diftant ; and I have no reafon to think that it adts 
upon me, or that I adl upon it ; but I can think of it notwith- 
(landing. I can think of the firft year, or the lafl year of the Ju- 
lian period. 

If, after all, it fhould be thought, that images in the mind ferve 
to account for this faculty of conceiving things mofl diftant in 
time and place, and even things which do not exift, which other- 
wife would be altogether inconceivable ; to this I anfwer, That 
accounts of things, grounded upon conjedlure, have been the bane 
of true philofophy in all ages. Experience may fatisfy us, that it 
is an hundred times more probable that they are falfe than that 
they are true. 

This account of the faculty of conception, by images in the 
mind, or in the brain, will deferve the regard of thofe who have 
a true tafte in philofophy, when it is proved by folid arguments, 
fr/I, That there are images in the mind, or in the brain, of the 
things we conceive. Secondly, That there is a faculty in the mind 
of perceiving fuch images. 'Thirdly, That the perception of fuch 
images produces the conception of things mofl diftant, and even 
of things that have no exiftence. And, fottrlhly. That the percep- 
tion of individual images in the mind, or in the brain, gives us 
the conception of univerfals, which are the attributes of many in- 


dividuals. Until this is done, the theory of images exifling in the CHAP. ii. 
mind, or in the brain, ought to be placed in the fame category 
with the fenfible fpecies, and materia prhna of Aristotle, and the 
vortices of Des Cartes. 


Mt/lakes concerning Conception. 

I. \T7RITERS on Logic, after the example of Aristotle, 
VV divide the operations of the underftanding into three; 
fimple apprehenfion, which is another word for conception, judg- 
ment, and reafoning. They teach us, that reafoning is exprelTed 
by a fyllogifm, judgment by a propofition, and fimple apprehen- 
fion by a term only, that is, by one or more words which do not 
make a full propofition, but only the fubjedl or predicate of a pro- 
pofition. If by this they mean, as I think they do, that a propo- 
fition, or even a fyllogifm, may not be fimply apprehended, I be- 
lieve this is a miftake. 

In all judgment and in all reafoning conception is included. We 
can neither judge of a propofition, nor reafon about it, unlefs we 
conceive or apprehend it. We may difi;in6lly conceive a propofi- 
tion, without judging of it at all.. We may have no evidence on 
one fide or the other ; we may have no concern whether it be true 
or falfe. In thefe cafes we commonly form no judgment about it, 
though we perfedly underftand its meaning. 

A man may difcourfe or plead, or write, for other ends than to 
find the truth. His learning, and wit, and invention, may be 
employed, while his judgment is not at all, or very little. When 
it is not truth, but fome other end he purfues, judgment would 

D d d a be 



aiAi'. III. be an impediment, unlefs for difcovering the means of attaining 
" ' ' his end ; and therefore it is laid afide, or employed folely for that 

The bufmefs of an orator is faid to be, to find out what is fit to 
perfuade. This a man may do with much ingenuity, who never 
took the trouble to examine whether it ought to perfuade or not. 
Let it not be thought, therefore, that a man judges of the truth of 
every propofition he utters, or hears uttered. In our commerce 
with the world, judgment is not the talent that bears the greatefl 
price ; and therefore thofe who are not fincere lovers of truth, 
lay up this talent, where it rufts and corrupts, while they carry- 
others to market, for which there is greater demand. 

2. The divifion commonly made, by Logicians, of fimple ap- 
prehenfion, into fenfation, imagination, and pure intelledion, feems 
to me very improper in feveral refpeifts. 

Firji^ Under the word fenfation, they include lipt only what 
is properly fo called, but the perception of external objedts by 
the fenfes. Thefe are very different operations of the mind ; 
and although they are commonly conjoined by nature, ought to be 
carefully diflinguifhed by Philofophers. 

■Secondly^ Neither fenfation, nor the perception of external ob- 
jedls, is fimple apprehenfion. Both include judgment and belief, 
which are excluded from fimple apprehenfion. 

Thirdly^ Th^y diflinguifh imagination from pure intellecf^ion by 
this, that in imagination the image is in the brain, in pure intel- 
ledlion it is in the intelle(5l. This is to ground a diftindlion upon 
an hypothefis. We have no evidence that there are images either in 
the brain or in the intelle(fl. 

1 take imagination, in its raoft proper fenfe, to fignify a lively 



conception of objecfls of fight.. This 13 a talent of importance to CHAP, in .. 
poets and orators, and deferves a proper name, on account of its 
connedlion with thofe arts. According to this ftrid meaning of 
the word, imagination is difhinguilhed from conception as_a part 
from the whole. We conceive the objedls of the other fenfes, but 
it is not fo proper to fay that we imagine them. We conceive 
judgment, reafoning, propofitions, and arguments; but it is ra- 
tlier improper to fay that we imagine thefe things. 

This diftindlion between imagination and conception, may be ' 
illuflrated by an example, which Des Cartes ufes to illuftrate the 
diflindlion between irhagination and pure intellecSlion. We can 
imagine a triangle or a fquare fo clearly as to diftinguiih them 
from every other figure. But we cannot imagine a figure of a 
thoufand equal fides and angles, fo clearly. The befl eye, by look- 
ing at it, could not diftinguiih it from every figure of more or 
fewer fides. And that conception of its appearance to the eye, 
which we properly call imagination, cannot be more diftindl than 
the appearance itfelf; yet we can- conceive a figure of a thoufand 
fides, and even can demonftrate the properties which diftinguiih it 
from all figures of inore or fewer fides. It is not by the eye, but 
by a fuperior faculty, that we form the notion of a great number, 
fuch as a thoufand : And a diftin(5l notion of this number of fides 
not being to be got by the eye, it is not imagined but it is diftind- 
ly conceived, and eafily diftinguilhed from every'other number. 

3. Simple apprehenfion is commonly rpprefented as the firft ope- 
ration of the underftanding ; and judgment, as being a eompofitioni 
»r combination of "fimple apprehenfionsV"' ' ' '' * 

Th;s miftake has probably arifen from the' taking fenfation, and 
the perception of .objects by the fenfes, to be nothing but fimple 
apprehenfion. They are very probably the firft operations of the: 
tnlnd, but they are not fimple apprehenfipns. . 

•• Ic. 

398 E S S A Y IV. 

CHA P. IIT . jj js generally allowed, that we cannot conceive founds if we 
have never heard, nor colours if we have never feen ; and the fame 
thing may be faid of the objedls of the other fenfes. In like man- 
ner, we muft have judged or reafoned before we have the concep- 
tion or fimple apprehenfion of judgment, and of reafoning. 

Simple apprehenfion, therefore, though it be the fimpleft, is not 
the firfl operation of the underflanding ; and inftead of faying, that 
the more complex operations of the mind are formed by compound- 
ing fimple apprehenfions, we ought rather to fay, that fimple ap- 
prehenfions are got by analyfing more complex operations. 

A fimilar millake, which is carried through the whole of Mr 
Locke's Eflay, may be here mentioned. It is, that our fimpleft 
ideas or conceptions are got immediately by the fenfes, or by con- 
fcioufnefs, and the complex afterwards formed by compounding 
them. I apprehend, it is far otherwife. 

Nature prefents no obje<5l to the fenfes, or to confcioufnefs, that 
is not complex. Thus, by our fenfes we perceive bodies of vari- 
ous kinds ; but every body is a complex obje(5l ; it has length, 
breadth, and thicknefs ; it has figure, and colour, and various other 
fenfible qualities, which are blended together in the fame fubjecfl ; 
and I apprehend, that brute animals, who have the fame fenfes that 
we have, cannot feparate the different qualities belonging to the 
fame fubjecfl, and have only a complex and confufed notion of the 
whole : Such alfo would be our notions of the obje;5ls of fenfe, if 
we had not fuperlor powers of underrtanding, by which we can 
analyfe the complex obje6l, abftradl every particular attribute from 
the reft, and form a diftindl conception of it. 

So that it is not by the fenfes immediately, but rather by the 
powers of analyfing and abftradlion, that we get the moft fimple, 
and the moft diftindl notions even of the obje(fls of fenfe. This 
will be more fully explained in another place. 

4. There 


4. There remains another miftake concerning conception, which CHAT, ill , 
deferves to be noticed. It is, that our conception of things is a tell 
of their pofTibiUty, fo that, what we can diftincftly conceive, we 
may conchide to be poffible j and of what is impoflible, we can 
have no conception. 

This opinion has been held by Pliilofophers for more than an 
hundred years, without contradi(5lion or diflent, as far as I know ; 
and if it be an error, it may be of fome ufe to enquire into its 
origin, and the caufes that it has been fo generally received as a 
maxim, whofe truth could not be brought into doubt. 

One of the fruitlefs queftions agitated among the fcholaftic Phi- 
lofophers in the dark ages was, What is the criterion of truth ? as 
if men could have any other way to diftinguifh truth from error, 
but by the right ufe of that power of judging which God has gi- 
ven them. 

Des Cartes endeavoured to put an end to this controverfy, by 
making it a fundamental principle in his fyflem, that whatever 
we clearly and diftindlly perceive, is true. 

To underfland this principle of Des Cartes, it muft be ob- 
ferved, that he gave the name of perception to every power of 
the human underftanding ; and in explaining this very maxim, he 
tells us, that fenfe, imagination, and pure intelledlion, are only 
different modes of perceiving, and fo the maxim was underflood 
by all his followers. 

The learned Dr Cudworth feems alfo to have adopted this 
principle : " The criterion of true knowledge, fays he, is only to 
" be looked for in our knowledge and conceptions themfelves : 
" For the entity of all theoretical truth is nothing elfe but clear 

intelligibility, and whatever is clearly conceived is an entity and 
" a truth ; but that which is falfe, Divine power itfelf cannot 

" make 

406 E S S A Y IV. 

'G-HAP- '[^l- " make it to be clearly and dilliiK^ly underftood. A falsehood 
* " can never be clearly conceived or apprehended to be true." 

Etern. and Immut. Morality, p. 172, ^c. 

This Cartefian maxim feems to me to have led the veay to that 
now under confideration, which feems to have been adopted as 
> the proper correal ion of the former. When the authority of Des 
Cartes declined, men began to fee that we may clearly and di- 
ftindlly conceive What is not true, but thought, that our concep- 
tion, though not in all cafes a teft of truth, might be a teft of 

This indeed feems to be a neceffary confcquence of the received 
dodrine of ideas ; it being evident, that there can be no diftincfl 
image, either in the mind or any where elfe, of that which is 
impoflible. The ambiguity of the word conceive, which we ob- 
ferved Effay I. chap. i. and the common phrafeology of faying 
ijve cannot conceive fuch a thing, when we would fignify that we 
think it impoflible, might likewife contribute to the reception of 
this do(5lrine. 

But whatever was the origin of this opinion, it feems to pre- 
vail univerfally, and to be received as a maxim. 

" The bare having an idea of the propofition proves the thing 
** not to be impoflible ; for of an impoflible propofition there can 
" be no idea." Dr Sam. Clarke. . 

" Of that which neither does nor can exifl we can have no 
" idea." L. Bolingbroke. 

" The meafure of impofllbility to \is is inconceivablenefs, that 
*' of which we can have no idea, but that refledling upon it, it 
appears to be nothing, we pronounce to be impoflible." Aber- 




" In every idea is implied the pofTibillty of the exiftence of its chap. hi. 
" objed, nothing being clearer than that there can be no idea of 
" an impoflibility, or conception of what cannot exift." Dr Price. 

" Impoflibile eft cujus nullam notionem formare pofTumus ; ' 

" poffibile e contra, cui aliqua refpondet notio." Wolfii On- 


" It is an eftablifhed maxim in metaphyfics, that whatever the 
" mind conceives, includes the idea of poffible exiftence, or, in 
" other vi'ords, that nothing we imagine is abfolutely impofTible." 
D. Hume. 

It were eafy to mufter np many other rerpe61;able authorities 
for this maxim, and I have never found one that called it in 

If the true in the extent which the famous Wolfius 
has given it, in the paflage above quoted, we fliall have a fhort 
road to the determination of every queftion about the polTibility 
or impoffibility of things. We need only look into our own 
breaft, and that, like the Urim and Thummim, will give an in- 
fallible anfwer. If we can conceive the thing, it is poffible ; if 
not, it is impoffible. And furely every man may know whether 
he can conceive what is affirmed or not. 

Other Philofophers have been fatisfied with one half of the 
maxim of Wolfius. They fay, that whatever we can conceive 
is poffible ; but they do not fay, that whatever we cannot conceive 
is impoffible, 

I cannot help thinking even this to be a miftake, which Philo- 
fophers have been unwarily led into, from the caufes before men- 
tioned. My reafons are thefe: 

E e e I. Whatever 




CHAP. III. I, Whatever is faid to be poffible or Impoflible is exprefTed by 
a propofition. Now, What is it to conceive a propofition ? I think 
it is no more than to underftand diflindlly its meaning. I know 
no more that can be meant by fimple apprehenlion or conception, 
when appUed to a propofition. The axiom, therefore, amounts 
to this : Every propofition, of which you underftand the mean- 
ing diflindlly, is polfible. I am perfuaded, that I underftand as 
diftinifHy the meaning of this propofition, Any two fides of a triangle 
are together equal to the thirds as of this, Any twofdes of a triangle 
are together greater than the third ; yet the firft of thefe is impoflible. 

Perhaps it will be faid, that though you underftand the mean- ' 
ing of the impoflible propofition, you cannot fuppofe or conceive 
it to be true. 

Here we are to examine the meaning of the phrafes oi fuppo- 
fing and concei'ving a propofition to be true. I can certainly fup- 
pofe it to be true, becaufe I can draw confequences from it which 
I find to be impoflible, as well as the propofition itfelf. 

If by conceiving it to be true be meant giving fome degree of 
aflent to it, however fmall, this, I confefs, I cannot do. But will 
it be faid, that every propofition to which I can give any degree 
of aflTent is poflible ? This contradidls experience, and therefore 
the maxim cannot be true in this fenfe. 

Sometimes, when we fay that we cannot conceive a thing to be true^ 
we mean by that expreflion, that we judge it to be impoffible. In this 
fenfe, I cannot, indeed, conceive it to be true, that two fides of 
a triangle are equal to the third. I judge it to be impoflible. If, 
then, we underftand in this fenfe that maxim, that nothing we 
can conceive is impoflible, the meaning will be, that nothing is 
impoflible which we judge to be poflible. But does it not often 
happen, that what one man judges to be poflible, another man 
judges to be impoflible ? The maxim, therefore, is not true in 
this fenfe. 



I am not able to find any other meaning of conce'iving a propofitlon^ C^^Y. ill. 
or of conceiving it to be trne^ befides thefe 1 have mentioned. 1 know 
nothmg that can be meant by having the idea of a propolition, 
but either the underdanding its meaning, or the judging of its 
truth. I can underftand a proportion that is falfe or impoffible, 
as well as one that is true orpoffible; and I find that men have 
contradidlory judgments about what is pofTible or impofllble, as 
well as about other things. In what fenfe then can it be faid, that 
the having an idea of a propofition gives certain evidence that it is 
poflible ? 

If it be faid, that the idea of a propofition is an image of it in 
the mind ; I think indeed there cannot be a diflincl image either in 
the mind, or elfcwhere, of that which is iinpofTiblc ; but what is 
meant by the image of a propofition I am not able to comprehend, 
and I fliall be glad to be informecL 

2. Every propofition, that is neceflarily true, ftands oppofed to^ 
a contradictory propofition that is impoflible; and he that conceives 
one, conceives both ; Thus a man who believes that two and three 
necefTarily make five, muft believe it to be impoflible that two and 
three fhould not make five. He conceives both propofitions when 
he believes one. Every propofition carries its contradi(5lory in its 
bofom, and both are conceived at the fame time. " It is confelled, 
" fays MrEIuME, that in all cafes where we difTent from any per- 
" foil, we conceive both fides of the queflion, but we can believe 
" only one." From certainly follows, that when we difTent 
from any perfon about a neceflTary propofition, we conceive one 
that is impoffible ; yet I know no Philofopher who has made fo 
much ufe of the maxim, that whatever we conceive is poflible, as 
Mr Hume. A great part of his peculiar tenets is built upon it; 
and if it is true, they mufl be true. Bur he did not perceive, that 
in the paflage now quoted, the truth of which is evident, he coa- 
tradids it himfelf, 

E e e 2 3. Mathematicians 



CHAP. III. 2- Mathematicians have, in many cafes, proved fomc things to 
be poflible, and others to be impoffible; which, without demonftra- 
tion, would not have been beheved : Yet I have never found, that 
any Mathematician has attempted to prove a thing to be poffible, 
becaufe it can be conceived ; or impoflible, becaufe it cannot be 
conceived. Why is not this maxim appHed to determine whether 
it is poffible to fquare the circle ? a point about which very emi- 
nent Mathematicians have differed. It is eafy to conceive, that in 
the infinite feries of numbers, and intermediate fradions, fome one 
number, integral or fradional, may bear the fame ratio to another, 
as the fide of a fquare bears to its diagonal ; yet, however concei- 
vable this may be, it may be demonftratcd to be impoflible. 

4. Mathematicians often require' us to conceive things that are 
impoflible, in order to prove them to be fo, This is the cafe in 
all their demonfl:rations, ad abfurdum. Conceive, fays Euclid, a 
right line drawn from one point of the circumference of a circle to 
another, to fall without the circle ; I conceive this, I reafon from 
it, until I come to a confequence that is manifeftly abfurd ; and 
from thence conclude, that the thing which I conceived is impoffible. 

Having faid fo much to fhew, that our power of conceiving a 
propofition is no criterion of its pofllbility or impoffibility, I (hall 
add a few obfervations on the extent of our knowledge of this kind. 

1. There are many propofitions which, by the faculties God has 
given us, we judge to be neceflTary, as well as true. All mathema- 
tical propofitions are of this kind, and many others. The contra- 
di(5lories of fuch propofitions muft: be impoffible. Our knowledge, 
therefore, of what is impoffible, muft at leaft be as extenfive as our 
knowledge of neceflary truth. 

2. By our fenfes, by memory, by teftimony, and by other means, 
we know many things to be true, which do not appear to be necef- 
fary. Eut whatever is true, is poffible. Our knowledge, therefore, 



of what is pofTible, muft at leafl extend as far as our knowledge of cha p, iir . 

3. If a man pretends to determuie the pofllbillty or impofll- 
bility of things beyond thefe limits, let him bring proof. I do not 
fay that no fuch proof can be brought. It has been brought in 
many cafes, particularly in mathematics. But I fay, that his be- 
ing able to conceive a thing, is no proof that it is poffible. Ma- 
thematics afford many inftances of impoffibilities in the nature of 
things, which no man would have believed, if they had not been 
ftrit^ly demonftrated. Perhaps, if we were able to reafon demon- 
flratively in other fubje<5ls, to as great extent as in mathematics, we 
might find many things to be impoffible, which we conclude, with- 
out hefitation, to be poffible. 

It is poffible, you fay, that God might have made an univerfe 
of fenfible and rational creatures, into which neither natural nor 
moral evil fliould ever enter. It may be fo, for what I know : But 
how do you know that it is poffible ? That you can conceive it, I 
grant ; but this is no proof. I cannot admit, as an argument, or 
even as a preffing difficulty, what is grounded on the fuppofition 
that fuch a thing is poffible, when there is no good evidence that 
it is poffible, and, for any thing we know, it may in the nature of 
things be impoffible. 


Of the Train of Thought in the Mind. 

EVERY man is confcious of a fucceffion of thoughts which 
pafs in his mind while he is awake, even when they are not 
excited by external objeds. 


4c6 ■ E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP. IV . -fhe mind on this account may be compared to liquor in the ftatc 
of fermentation. When it is not in this flate, being once at reft, 
it remains at reft, until it is moved by fome external impulfe. But, 
in the ftate of fermentation, it has fome caufe of motion in itfelf, 
which, even when there is no impulfe from without, fuffers it not 
to be at reft a moment, but produces a conftant motion and ebul- 
lition, while it continues to ferment. 

Tliere is furely no fTmilitude between motion and thought ; buj 
there is an analogy, fo obvious to all men, that the fame words 
are often applied to both ; and many modifications of thought 
have no name but fuch as. is borrowed from the modifications of 
motion. Many thoughts are excited by the fenfes. The caufes or 
occafions of thefe may be confidered as external : But, when fuch 
external caufes do not operate upon us, we continue to think from 
fome internal caufe. From the conftitution of the mind itfelf 
there is a conftant ebullition of thought, a conftant intell.ine mo- 
tion ; not only of thoughts barely fpeculative, but of fentiments, 
paffions and afFedlions, which attend them. 

This continued fucceffion of thought has, by modern Philofo- 
phers, been called the imagination. 1 think it was formerly called 
the fancy, or the phantafy. If the old name be laid afide, it were 
to be wiflied that it had got a name lefs ambiguous than that of 
imagination, a name which had two or three meanings befides. 

It is often called the train of ideas. This may lead one to think 
that it is a train of bare conceptions ; but this would furely be a 
miftake. It is made up of many other operations of mind, as well 
as of conceptions, or ideas. 

Memory, judgment, reafoning, pafTions, aiFe(5lions and purpofes; 
in a word, every operation of the mind, excepting thofe of fenfe, 
is exerted occafionally in this train of thought, and has its fhare 
as an ingredient : So that we muft take the word idea in a very 




extenfive fenfe, if we make the train of our thoughts to be only a CHAP, iv . 
train of ideas. 

To pafs from the name, and confider the thing, we may obferve, 
that the trains of thought in the mind are of two kinds ; they are 
either fuch as flow fpontaneoufly, like water from a fountain, with- 
out any exertion of a governing principle to arrange them ; or they 
are regulated and diredled by an adlive effort of the mind, with 
fome view and intention. 

Before we confider thefe in their order, it is proper to premife, 
that thefe two kinds, however diftindl in their nature, are for the 
mod part mixed, in perfons awake and come to years of under- 

On the one hand, we are rarely fo vacant of all projedl and de- 
fign, as to let our thoughts take their own coujrfe, without the leaft 
check or diredlion : Or if at any time we fliould be in this (late, 
fome objedl will prefent itfelf, which is too interefliing not to en- 
gage the attention, and roufe the adive or contemplative powers 
that were at reft. 

On the other hand, when a man is giving the moft intenfe ap- 
plication to any fpeculation, or to any fcheme of condudl, when 
he wills to exclude every thought that is foreign to his prefent pur- 
pofe, fuch thoughts will often impertinently intrude upon him, in 
fpite of his endeavours to the contrary, and occupy, by a kind of 
violence, fome part of the time dellined to another purpofe. One 
man may have the command of his thoughts more than another man, 
and the fame man more at one time than at another : But I appre- 
hend, in the beft trained mind the thovights will fometimes be 
reftive, fometimes capricious and felf-willed, when we wifh to have 
them moft under command. 

It has been obferved very juftly, that we muft not afcribe to the 


4o8 ESSAY IV. 

CHAP. IV. ixiind the power of calling up any thought at pleafure, bccaufe 
fuch a call or volition fuppofes that thought to be already 
ia the mind ; for otherwife, how fliould it be the objedl of voli- 
tion ? As this mull be granted on the one hand, fo it is nolefs cer- 
tain on the other, that a man has a confiderable power in regula- 
ting and difpofing his own thoughts. Of this every man is con- 
fcious, and I can no more doubt of it, than I can doubt whether I 
think at all. 

• We feem to treat the thoughts that prefent themfelves to the fan- 
cy in crowds, as a great man treats thofe that attend his levee. 
They are all ambitious of his attention ; he goes round the circle, 
beftowing a bow upon one, a fmile upon another ; afks a fliort 
queflion of a third ; while a fourth is honoured with a particular 
conference ; and the greater part have no particular mark of atten- 
tion, but go as they came. It is true, he can give no mark of his 
attention to thofe who were not there, but he has a fufficient num- 
ber for making a choice and diftincSlion. 

In like manner, a number of thoughts prefent themfelves to the 
fancy fpontaneoufly ; but if we pay no attention to them, nor hold 
any conference with them, they pafs with the crowd, and are im- 
mediately forgot, as if they had never appeared. But thofe to 
which we think proper to pay attention, may be flopped, examined, 
arid arranged, for any particular purpofe we have in view. 

It may likewife be obferved, that a. train of thought, which was 
at firft compofed by application and jmlgment, when it has been 
often repeated, and becomes familiar, will prefent itfelf fpontane- 
ouGy. Thus when a man has compofed an air in mufic, fo as to 
pleafe his own ear ; after he has played, or fung it often, the notes 
will arrange themfelves in jull order ; and it requires no effort to 
regulate their fucceflion. 

Thus we fee, that the fancy is made up of trains of thinking; 



fome of which are fpontaneous, others ftudied and regulated ; and ^^^^' ^^/ 
the greater part are mixed of both kinds, and take their denomi- 
nation from that which is moft prevalent : And that a train of 
thought, which at firfl was ftudied and compofed, may by habit 
prefent itfelf fpontaneoufly. Having premifed thefe things, let us 
return to thofe trains of thought which are fpontaneous, which 
muft be firft in the order of nature. 

"When the work of the day is over, and a man lies down to re- 
lax his body and mind, he cannot ceafe from thinking, though he 
defires it. Something occurs to his fancy ; that is followed by an- 
other thing, and ih his thoughts are carried on from one objedl to 
another, until fleep clofes the fcene. 

In this operation of the mind, it is not one faculty only that is 
employed ; there are many that join together in its produdlion. 
Sometimes the tranfadlions of the day are brought upon the ftage, 
and a(5led over again, as it were, upon this theatre of the imagina- 
tion. In this cafe, memory furely adls the moft confiderable part, 
fince the fcenes exhibited are not ficflions, but realities, which we 
remember ; yet in this cafe the memory does not a&. alone, other 
powers are employed, and attend upon their proper objedls. The 
tranfa(5lions remembered will be more or lefs interefting ; and we 
cannot then review our own condu<5l, nor that of others, without 
paffing fome judgment upon it. This we approve, that we difap- 
prove. This elevates, that humbles and deprefles us. Perfons 
that are not abfolutely indifferent to us, can hardly appear, even to 
the imagination, without fome friendly or unfriendly emotion. 
We judge and reafon about things, as well as perfons in fuch reve- 
ries. We remember what a man faid and did ; from this we pafs 
to his defigns, and to his general charadler, and frame fome hypo- 
thefis to make the whole confiftent. Such trains of thought we 
may call hiftorical. 

There are others which we may call romantic, in which the 

F f f plot 


plot is formed by the creative power of fancy, without any regard 
to what did or will happen. In thefe alfo, the powers of judg- 
ment, tafte, moral fentiment, as well as the paffions and afFedlions, 
come in and take a Ihare in the execution. 

In thefe fcenes, the man himfelf commonly adls a very diftin- 
guifhed part, and feldom does any thing which he cannot approve. 
Here the mifer will be generous, the coward brave, and the knave 
honeft. Mr Addison, in the SpeSlator^ calls this play of the fan- 
cy, caftle building. 

The young Politician, who has turned his thoughts to the affairs 
of government, becomes in his imagination a miniller of ftate. 
He examines every fpring and wheel of the machine of govern- 
ment with the nicell eye, and the moft exadl judgment. He finds 
a proper remedy for every diforder of the copamonwealth, quickens 
trade and manufa<5tures by falutary laws, encourages arts and fci- 
ences, and makes the nation happy at home, and refpe<5led abroad. 
He feels the reward of his good adminiflration, in that felf-appro- 
bation which attends it, and is happy in acquiring, by his wife 
and patriotic condud, the bleffings of the prefent age, and the 
praifes of thofe that are to come. 

It is probable, that, upon the flage of imagination, more great 
exploits have been performed in every age, than have been upon 
the flage of life from the beginning of the world. An innate de- 
fire of felf-approbation is undoubtedly a part of the human con- 
flitution. It is a powerful fpur to worthy condudl, and is intend- 
ed as fuch by the Author of our being. A man cannot be eafy or 
happy, unlefs this defire be in fome meafure gratified. While he 
conceives himfelf worthlefs and bafe, he can relifli no enjoyment. 
The humiliating mortifying fentiment muft be removed, and this 
natural defire of felf-approbation will either produce a noble effort 
to acquire real worth, which is its proper diredlion, or it will 
lead into fome of thofe arts of felf-deceit, which create a falfe opi- 
nion of worth. 



A caftle builder, in the ficfliclous fcenes of his fancy, will figure, CHAP. l\\ 
not according to his real charadler, but according to the highcft 
opinion he has been able to form of himfelf, and perhaps far be- 
yond that opinion. For in thofe imaginary conflidls the paffions 
eafily yield to reafon, and a man exerts the nobleft efforts of vir- 
tue and magnanimity, with the fame eafe, as, in his dreams, he 
flies through the air, or plunges to the bottom of the ocean. 

The romantic fcenes of fancy are mofl commonly the occupa- 
tion of young minds, not yet fo deeply engaged in life as to have 
their thoughts taken up by its real cares and bufinefs. 

Thofe active powers of the mind, which are moft luxuriant by 
conftitution, or have been mofl cherifhed by education, impatient 
to exert themfelves, hurry the thought into fcenes that give them 
play ; and the boy commences in imagination, according to the 
bent of his mind, a general or a ftatefman, a poet or an orator. 

When the fair ones become caftle builders, they ufe different 
materials ; and while the young foldier is carried into the field of 
Mars, where he pierces the thickeft fquadrons of the enemy, de-' 
fpifing death in all its forms, the gay and lovely nymph, whofe 
heart has never felt the tender paflion, is tranfported into a bril- 
liant affembly, where Ihe draws the attention of every eye, and 
makes an impreffion on the nobleft heart. 

But no fooner has Cupid's arrow found its way into her own 
heart, than the whole fcenery of her imagination is changed. Balls 
and affemblies have now no charms. Woods and groves, the 
flowery bank, and the cryftal fountain, are the fcenes Ihe fre- 
quents in imagination. She becomes an Arcadian fliepherdefs, 
feeding her flock befides that of her Strephon, and wants no more 
to complete her happinefs. 

In a few years the love-fick maid is transformed into the folici- 

F f f 2 t0U8 

413 ESSAY IV. 

^^^^5' ^'^' ^°^^ mother. Her fmiling offspring play around her. She views 
them with a parent's eye. Her imagination immediately raifes 
them to manhood, and brings them forth upon the flage of life. 
One fon makes a figure in the army, another fhines at the bar ; 
her daughters are happily difpofed of in marriage, and bring new 
alliances to the family. Her childrens .children rife up before her,^ 
and venerate her gray hairs. 

Thus, the fpontaneous fallies of fancy are as various as the cares 
and fears, the defires and hopes, of man. 

^'icquid agtint homines^ votum, limor, ira, voluptas^ 
Gaudiay difcurfus : 

Thefe fill up the fcenes of fancy, as well as the page of the Satyrifl:. 
"Whatever poffeffes the heart makes occafional excurfions into the 
imagination, and adls fuch fcenes upon that theatre as are agree- 
able to the prevailing paffion. The man of traffic, who has com- 
mitted a rich cargo to the inconftant ocean, follows it in his 
thought ; and, according as his hopes or his fears prevail, he is 
haunted with ftorms, and rocks, and fhipwreck; or he makes a 
happy and a lucrative voyage ; and before his veffel has loft fight 
of land, he has difpofed of the profit which flie is to bring at her 

The Poet is carried into the Elyfian fields, where he converfes 
with the ghofts of Homer and Orpheus. The Philofopher makes 
a tour through the planetary fyftem, or goes down to the centre 
of the earth, and examines its various ftrata. In the devout man 
likewife, the great objedls that pofTefs his heart often play in his 
imagination ; Ibmetimes he is tranfported to the regions of the 
blefled, from whence he looks down with pity upon the. folly and 
the pageantry of human life ; or he proftrates himfelf before the 
throne of the Moft High with devout veneration ; or he converfes 
with celeftial fpirits about the natural and moral kingdom of God, 



which he now fees only by a faint light, but hopes, hereafter to CHAP, iv. . 
view with a (leadier and brighter ray. 

In perfons come to maturity, there is even in thefe fpontaneous 
fallies of fancy, fome arrangement of thought; and I conceive that 
it will be readily allowed, that in thofe who have the greatefl flock 
of knowledge, and the beft natural parts, even the fpontaneous 
movements of fancy will be the moft regular and connedled. They 
have an order, connecSlion, and unity, by which they are no lefs 
diflinguiflied from the dreams of one afleep, or the ravings of one 
delirious on the one hand, than from the finiflied produdlions of 
art on the other. 

How is this" regular arran-gement brought about ? It has all the 
marks of judgment and reafon, yet it feems to go befare judgment,. 
and to fpring forth fpontaneoufly. 

Shall we believe with Leibnitz, that the mind wzs originally 
formed like a watch wound up ; and that all its thoughts, purpofes, 
paffions, and adlions, are effedled by the gradual evolution of the 
original fpring. of the machine, and fucceed each other in order, as 
neccflarily as the motions and pulfations of a. watch ? 

If a child of three or four years, were put to account for the 
phaenomena of a watch, he would conceive that there is a little 
man within the watch, or fome other little animal, that beats con- 
tinually, and produces the motion. Whether the hypothefis of this 
young Philofopher in turning the watch fpring into a man, or that 
of the German Philofopher in turning a man into a watch fpring, 
he the moft rational, feems hard to determine. . 

To account for the regularity of our firft thoughts, from mo- 
tions of animal fpirits, vibrations of nerves, attra6lions of ideas, . 
or from any other unthinking caufe, whether mechanical or con- 
tingent, feems equally irrational. 



If we be not able to diflinguilTi the flrongefl marks of thought 
and deiign from the elfecls of mechanifm or contingency, the con- 
fequence will be very melancholy : For it mnft neceflfarily follow, 
that we have no evidence of thought in any of our fellow men, 
nay that xte have no evidence of thought or defign in the (Irucflure 
and government of the univerfe. If a good period or fentence 
was ever produced without having had any judgment previoufly 
employed about it, why not an Iliad or Eneld ? They differ only 
in lefs and more ; and we fliould do injuftice to the Philofopher of 
Laputa, in laughing at his projed of making poems by the turn- 
ing of a wheels if a concurrence of unthinking caxifes may pro- 
duce a rational train of thought. 

It is, therefore, in itfelf highly probable, to fay no more, that 
whatfoever is regular and rational in a train of thought, which 
prefents itfelf fpontaneoufly to a man's fancy, without any ftudy, 
is a copy of what had been before compofed by his own rational 
pow^ers, or thofe of fome other perfon. 

We certainly judge fo in fimilar cafes. Thus, in a book I find 
a train of thinking, which has the marks of knowledge and 
judgment. I aflc how it was produced ? It is printed in a book. 
This does not fatisfy me, becaufe the book has no knowledge nor 
reafon. I am told that a printer printed it, and a compofitor fet 
the types. Neither does this fatisfy me. Thefe caufes perhaps 
knew very little of the fubjecft. There mull be a prior caufe of 
the compofition. It was printed from a manufcript. True. But 
the manufcript is as ignorant as the printed book. The manu- 
fcript was- written or dictated by a man of knowledge and judg- 
ment. This, and this only, will fatisfy a man of common un- 
derOianding ; and it appears to him extremely ridiculous to believe 
that fuch a train of thinking could originally be produced by any 
caufe that neither reafons nor thinks. 

Whether fuch a train of thinking be printed in a book, or 




printed, fo to fpcak, in his mind, and iflue fpontaneoufly from CHAP. IV. 
his fancy, it mufl have been compofed with judgment by himfelf, 
or by fome other rational being. 

This, I think, will be confirmed by tracing the progrefs of the 
human fancy as far back as we are able. 

We have not the means of knowing how the fancy is employed 
in infants. Their time is divided between the employment of 
their fenfes and found fleep : So that there is little time left for 
imagination, and the materials it has to work upon are probably 
very fcanty. A few days after they are born, fometimes a few 
hours, we fee them fmile in their fleep. But what they fmile at 
is not eafy to guefs ; for they do not fmile at any thing they fee, 
when awake, for fome months after they are born. It is likewife 
common to fee them move their lips in fleep, as if they were 

Thefe things feem to difcover fome working of the imagina- 
tion ; but there is no reafon to think that there is any regular 
train of thought in the mind of infants. 

By a regular train of thought, I mean that which has a begin- 
ning, a middle, and an end, an arrangement of its parts, ac- 
cording to fome rule, or with fome intention. Thus, the con- 
ception of a defign, and of the means of executing it ; the con- 
ception of a whole, and the number and order of the parts. 
Thefe are inftances of the moft fimple trains of thought that can 
be called regular. 


Man has undoubtedly a power (whether we call it tafle or 
judgment, is not of any confequence in the prefent argument) 
whereby he diftinguifhes between a compofition, and a heap of ma- 
terials ; between a houfe, for inftance, and a heap of ftones ; 
between a fentence and a heap of words ; between a pidure, and 


•416 ESSAY IV. 

' pHA P.n^ a heap of colours. It does not appear to me that children have 
any regular trains of thought until this power begins to operate. 
Thofe who are born fuch idiots as never to fhew any figns of this 
power, fliow as little any figns of regularity of thought. It feems, 
-therefore, that this power is conneded with all regular trains of 
thought, and may be the caufe of them. 

Such tiains of thought difcover themfelves in children about two 
years of age. They can then -give attention to the operations of 
older children in making their little houfes, and Ihips, and other 
fuch things, in imitation of the works of men. They are then 
capable of underftanding a little of language, which fhews both a 
regular train of thinking, and fome degree of abflradion. I think 
we may perceive a diftindion between the faculties of children of 
tw^o or three years of age, and ihofe of the moft fagacious brute^. 
They can then perceive defign and regularity in the works of 
others, efpecially of older children ; their little minds are fired with 
the difcovery ; they are eager to imitate it, and never at reft till 
they can exhibit fomething of the fame kind. 

When a child firft learns by imitation to do fomething that re- 
quires defign, how does he exult! Pythagoras was not more 
happy in the difcovery of his famous theorem. He feems then firft 
to refle<5l upon himfelf, and to fwell with felf-efteem. His eyes 
fparkle. He is impatient to fhew his performance to all about him, 
and thinks himfelf entitled to their applaufe. He is applauded by 
all, and feels the fame emotion from this applaufe, as a Roman 
Conful did from a triumph. He has now a confcioufnefs of fome 
worth in himfelf. He afiTumes a fviperiority over thofe who are 
not fo wife ; and pays refpedl to thole who are wifer than himfelf. 
He attempts fomething elfe, and is every day reaping new laurels. 

As children grow up, they are delighted with tales, with childifh 
games, with defigns and ftratagems : Every thing of this kind ftores 
the fancy with a new regular train of thought, which becomes fa- 



miliar by repetition, fo that one part draws the whole after it in chap, i v. 
the imagination. 

The imagination of a child, like the hand of a painter, is long 
employed in copying the works of others, before it attempts any 
invention of its own. 

The power of invention is not yet brought forth, but it is co- 
ming forward, and, like the bud of a tree, is ready to burfl its 
integuments, when fome accident aids its eruption. 

There is no power of the underftanding that gives fo much plea- 
fure to the owner as that of invention ; whether it be employed 
in mechanics, in fcience, in the conduct of life, in poetry, in wit, or 
in the fine arts. One who is confcious of it, acquires thereby a worth 
and importance in his own eye which he had not before. He 
looks upon himfelf as one who formerly lived upon the bounty and 
gratuity of others, but who has now acquired fome property of 
his own. When this power begins to be felt in the young mind, 
it has the grace of novelty added to its other charms, and, like the 
youngeft child of the family, is carefTed beyond all the reft. 

We may be fure, therefore, that as foon as children are confci- 
ous of this power, they will exercife it in fuch ways as are fuited 
to their age, and to the objecls they are employed about. This 
gives rife to innumerable new aflbciations, and regular trains of 
thought, which make the deeper imprefllon upon the mind, as' 
they are its exclufive property. 

I am aware that the power of invention is diftributed among 
men more unequally than almoft any other. When it is able to 
produce any thing that is interefting to mankind, we call it genius; 
a talent which is the lot of very few. But there is perhaps a lower 
kind, or lower degree of invention that is more common. How- 
ever this may be, it muft be allowed, that the power of invention 

Ggg in 

4i8 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP. IV. jn thofe who- have it, will produce many new regular trains of 
thought ; and thefe being exprelTed in works of arc, in writing, 
or in difcourfe, will be copied by others. 

Thus I conceive the minds of children, as foon as they have 
judgment to diflinguifh what is regular, orderly, and conned\ed, 
from a mere medley of thought, are furniflied with regular trains 
of thinking by thefe means. 

Firjt and chiefly, by copying what they fee in the works and 
in the difcourfe of others. Man is the mod imitative of all ani- 
mals ; he not only imitates with intention, and purpofely, what he 
thinks has any grace or beauty, but even without intention, he is 
led by a kind of inftin(5t, which it is difficult to refift, into the 
modes of fpeaking, thinking, and acting, which he has been ac- 
cuftomed to fee in his early years. The more children fee of what 
is regular and beautiful in what is prefented to them, the more 
they are led to obferve and to imitate it. 

This is the chief part of their ftock, and defcends to them by a 
kind of tradition from thofe who came before them ; and we fliall 
find, that the fancy of mod men is furniflied from thofe they have 
converfed with, as well as their religion, language, and manners. 

Secondly^ By the additions or innovations that are properly their 
own, thefe will be greater or lefs, in proportion to their ftudy and 
invention ; but in the bulk of mankind are not very confiderable. 

Every profeffion, and every rank in life, has a manner of think- 
ing, and turn of fancy that is proper to it ; by which it is charac- 
terifed in comedies and works of humour. The bulk of men of 
the fame nation, of the fame rank, and of the fame occupation, 
are call as it were in the fame mould. This mould itfelf changes 
gradually, but flowly, by new inventions, by intercourfe with 
llrangers, or by other accidents. 



The condition of man requires a longer infancy and youth than CHAP, iv . 
that of other animals j for this reafon among others, that almoft 
every llation in civil fociety requires a multitude of regular trains 
of thought, to be not only acquired, but to be made fo familiar 
by frequent repetition, as to prefent themfelves fpontaneoufly, 
when there is occafion for them. 

The imagination even of men of good parts never ferves them 
readily but in things wherein it has been much exercifed. A Mi- 
nifter of State holds a conference with a foreign AmbafTador, with 
no greater emotion than a Profeflbr in a college preledts to his au- 
dience. The imagination of each prefents to him what the occa- 
fion requires to be faid, and how. Let them change places, and 
both would find themfelves at a lofs. 

] ;The habits which the human mind is capable of acquiring by 
exercife are wonderful in many inflances ; in none more wonder- 
ful, than in that verfatility of imagination which a well bred man 
acquires, by being much exercifed in the various fcenes of life. 
In the morning he vifits a friend in afflidlion. Here his imagina- 
tion brings forth from its ftore every topic of confolation j every 
thing that is agreeable to the laws of friendfliip and fympathy, and 
nothing that is not fo. From thence he drives to the Miuifter's 
levee, where imagination readily fuggefls what is proper to be faid 
or replied to every man, and in what manner, according to the 
degree of acquaintance or familiarity, of rank or dependence, of 
oppofition or concurrence of interells, of confidence or diflruft, 
that is between them. Nor does all this employment hinder him 
from carrying on fome defign with much artifice, and endeavour- 
ing to penetrate into the views of others through the clofefl: dif- 
guifes. From the levee he goes to the Houfe of Commons, and 
fpeaks upon the affairs of the nation ; from thence to a ball or 
aflembly, and entertains the ladies. His imagination puts on the 
friend, the courtier, the patriot, the fine gentleman, with more 
eafe than we put off one fuit and put on another. 

G g g 2 This 

420 ESSAY IV. 

V .. ' 

Tlus is the cffe(5k of training and exercife. For a mail of €q«al 
parts and knowledge, but unaccuftomed to thofe fcenes of public 
life, is quite difconcerted when firfl: brought into them. His 
thoughts are put to flight, and he cannot rally them. 

There are feats of imagination to be learned by application and 
pradlice, as wonderful as the feats of balancers and rope-dancers, 
and often as ufelcfs. 

"When a man can make a hundred verfes (landing on one foot, 
or play three or four games at chefs at the fame time without fee- 
ing the board, it is probable he hath fpent his life in acquiring 
fuch a feat. However, fuch unufual phaenomena fliew what ha- 
bits of imagination may be acquired. 

When fuch habits are acquired and perfedled, they are exercifed 
without any laborious effoi't ; like the habit of playing upon an in- 
ftrument of mufic. There are innumerable motions of the fingers 
upon the ftops or keys, which muft be dire<ft:ed in one particular 
train or fucceflion. There is only one arrangement of thofe mo- 
tions that is right, while there are ten thoufand that are wrong, 
and would fpoil the mufic. The Mufician thinks not in the lead 
of the arrangement of thofe morions ; he has a diftin^Sl idea of the 
tune, and wills to play it. The motions of the fingers arrange 
themfelves, fo as to anfwer his intention. 

In like manner, when a man fpeaks upon a fubjedl with which 
he is acquainted, there is a certain arrangement of his thoughts 
and words neceflary to make his difcourfe lenfible, pertinent, and 
grammatical. In every fentence, there are more rules of gram- 
mar, logic, and rhetoric, that may be tranfgrefled, than there are 
words and letters. He fpeaks without thinking of any of thofe 
rules, and yet obferves them all, as if they were all in his eye. 

This is a habit fo fimilar to that of a player on an inftrument, 



Aac Ithmk bw^h thuftbe got in the •.:feine way, itJwit i&^iby muck p^Af, iv. 
pi-a(3:ice, and db-e ^wwer of iiabit. ; axij sisriw 9Dtorf> hns 3; 

When a man fpeaks well and methodically upon a fubje<5l with- 
out fludy, anii with perfect eafe, I believe we may take it for grant- 
ed that his thouglits run in a beaten track. There is a moiikl in 
his mind, which has been foo-mcd by much pradlice, or by ftudy, 
for this very fubjed, or for fbme other fo fimilar aad analogous j 
that his difcourfe falls into this mould with eafe, and takes its 
form from it. 

iadl r69 rtBf.: 

Hitherto av6 feave confidered the opferatiohs of fancy that are 
either fporitahcous, or at leafl require no laborious tfibrt to guide 
and diretfl them, aiid have emleavoured to account for that degree 
of regulariry and arrangement which is found even in them. The 
natural powers of judgment and invention, the pleafure that al- 
ways attends the exercife of thofe powers, the means v^e have of 
improving thenl by imitation of others, and the effecl of pradlice 
and habits, feems to me fufficiently to account for this phaenome- 
non, without fuppofing any unaccountable attractions of ideas by 
which they arrange themieJves. 

But vve are able to dire<^ our tbcmghts in a certain courfe fo as 
to perform a deftined taflc. 

Every work of art- has its m-odcl franked in^he imagination. Here 
the IHad 'of Homer, the Republic of Plato, the Principia of 
'NE'\yTON, were fabricated. Shall we believe, that thofe works 
took the form in which they now appear of themfelves ? That the 
fentinients, the manners, and the paffions arranged themfelves at 
once in the mind of Homer, fo as to form the Iliad ? Was there ' 
no more effort in the compofition, than there is in telling a well- 
known tale, or fmging a favourite fong ? This cannot be believed. 

Cranting that fume happy thought firft fuggefted the defign of 


4^2 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP. ly^ finging the wrath of Achilles; yet, furely, it was a matter of 
judgment and choice where the narration fhould begin, and where 
it fliould end. 

_ r , • 

Granting that the fertility of the Poet's imagination fuggefted 
a. variety of rich materials ; was not judgment neceflary to feledl 
what was proper, to rejecS what was improper, to arrange the ma- 
terials into a juft compofition, and to adapt them to each other, 
and to the defign of the whole ? 

No man can believe that Homer's ideas, merely by certain fym- 
pathies and antipathies, by certain attractions and repulfions in- 
herent in their natures, arranged themfelves accoixling to the moft 
perfedl rules of Epic poetry; and Newton's, according to the 
rules of mathematical compofition. 

,aobr . 

I fhould fooner believe that the Poet, after he invoked his Muf'e, 
did nothing at all but liften to the fong of the goddefs. Poets in- 
deed, and other artifls, mufl make their works appear natural ; 
but nature is the perfedlion of art, and there can be no juft imi- 
tation of nature without art: When ,the building isfinilhed, the 
rubbifh, the fcafFolds, the tools and engfnes, are carried out of 
fight; but we know it could not have been reared without them. 

The train of thinking, therefore, is capable of being guided and 
dire6led, much in the fame manner' as the horfe we ride. The horfe 
has his ftrength, his agility, and his mettle in himfelf ; he has 
been taught certain movements, and many ufeful habits that make 
him more fubfervient to our purpofes, and obedient to our will ; 
but to accomplifh a journey, he muft be diredled by the rider. 

In like manner fancy has its original powers, which are very 

different in diflferent perfons ; it has likewife more regular motions, 

to which it has been trained by a long courfe of difcipline and ex- 

^crcife; and by which it may extempore y and without much effort, 

!.'•:.: produce 


produce things that have; a cojifiderable degree df fceauty,iif:?gula- CHAP.iv . 
rity, and defign. irt - 

But the mofl perfedl works of defign are never extemporary. Our 
fir ft thoughts are reviewed ; we place them at a proper di fiance ; 
examine every part, and take a complex view of the; whole: By 
our critical faculties, we perceive this part to be, redundant, that 
deficient ; here is a want of nerves, there a want of delicacy ; this 
is obfcure, that too difFufe : Things are marihalled anew, according 
to a fecond and more deliberate judgment ; what was deficie^nt, is 
fupplied; what .was diilocated, is put iil joint ; redundances ar« 
lopped oflf, and the ;whole polilhed. 

- Though Poets ofallartifts make! the high'eft claim to infpiration, 
yet if we believe Horace, a competent judge, no produdion in 
that art can have mait, which has not cottX^li.Mbpur as thiftjn 
the birth. 'a '>T;r-r. :=':'' 

:ni;jllai 30ixh : 

{ -gnhd n; rifTpJ Q ■': 
■ Pompilius fanguis^ carmen reprehendite quod non 
Multa dies, et multa Utura cacrcuity atque 
PerfeElum decies non caJligav'U ad unguem. 
. , :.• •; :: . ;-...-,ih ,k[; : \ ;, ■. : : 

The conclufibn I would dfaw 'from all that has been faid upon 
this fubjedl is. That every thing thaf is regular in that train of 
thought, which we call fancy or imagination, from the little de- 
figns and reveries of children, to the grandeft produ6lions of human 
genius, was originally the oflTspring of judgment or tafle, applied 
with fome eflfort greater or lefs. What one perfon compofed with 
art and judgmem, is imitated by another with great eafe. What 
<d, man himfelf at firft compofed with pains, becomes by habit fo 
familiar, as to ofFer itfelf fpontaneoufly to his fancy afterwards : 
But nothing that is regular, was ever at firfl: conceived, without 
defign, attention, and care. 


424 - ESSAY IV. 

CHAP. IV.^ I jj^aii now make a few refle€lions upon a theory which has 
been applied to account for this fucceffive train of thought in the 
mind. It was hinted by Mr Hobbes, but has drawn more atten- 
tion ftnce it was diftindly explained by Mr Hume. 

.,-:;t. '■ •. •, ,...•:• .; ■ i: ;..:'■...,, ^ , 

That autI>or thinks that the train of. thought in the mind is 
owing to a kind of attradlion which ideas have for other ideas that 
beai" certain relations to them. He thinks the complex ideas, 
which are the common ftvbjedt& of our thoughts and reafoniug, 
are owing to the fame ca^fe, Thd' relatimis. which produce this 
attra€lioi> of i<;tea&, he thinks^ 'ard thefe three only, to wit, caufa- 
tion, contiguity in time or place, and fimilitude. He afTerts that 
thefe are the only general principles that unite ideas. And having, 
in anotlijer- place, occafion to take' notice of contrai-iety as a prin- 
ciple of conftfe(5tion among ideajSj in ordier to J reconcile this to his 
fyflrem', he'tel'ls u6'-^ifavely,:t4at Contrariety may perliaps be, con- 
fidered as a mixture of caufation and referablance. That ideas 
which have any of thefe three relations do mutually attradl each 
other, fo that one ef them being prefented to the fancy, the other 
is drawn along with' it, tlvis hs'feems to think an original property 
of the mind, or rather of the icteas, and therefore inexplicable. 

Fir/}, I obferve with regard to this theory, that although it is 
ti-viQ that the thought of any iibjeiftLii-. 'apt?/ tbnlead us to the 
thought of its caufe or efFedl; of things contiguous, to it in time 
or place,- or of things refembling it, yet this enumeration of the 
relations of things which are apt to lead us from one object to 
another, is very inaccurate. 

The enumeration- it} too large" Uipton his. own principles ; but it 
M by far too fcanty in reality. Caufation, according to his phi-, 
lofophy, implies nothing more than a conftant conjun(5tion ob- 
ierved between the caufe and the efFcdl, and therefore contiguity 
mufl: include caufation, and his three principles of attradion are 
reduced to two. 



But when we take all the three, the enumeration is in reaUty CHAP. iv. 
very incomplete. Every relation of things has a tendency, more 
or lefs, to lead the thought, in a thinking mind, from one to the 
other ; and not only every relation, but every kind of contrariety 
and oppofition. What Mr Hume fays, that contrariety may per- 
haps be confidered as a mixture " of caufation and refemblance," 
I can as little comprehend as if he had faid that figure may per- 
haps be confidered as a mixture of colour and found. 

Our thoughts pafs eafily from the end to the means ; from any 
truth to the evidence on which it is founded, the confequences 
that may be drawn from it, or the ufe that may be made of it. 
From a part we are eafily led to think of the whole, from a fub- 
jedl to its qualities, or from things related to the relation. Such 
tranfitions in thinking muft have been made thoufands of times 
by every man who thinks and reafons, and thereby become, as it 
were, beaten tracks for the imagination. 

Not only the relations of objedls to each other influence our 
train of thinking, but the relation they bear to the prefent temper 
and difpofition of the mind ; their relation to the habits we have 
acquired, whether moral or intelledlual ; to the company we have 
kept, and to the bufinefs in which we have been chiefly -employed. 
The fame event will fugged very different reflexions to different 
perfons, and to the fame perfon at different times, according as 
he is in good or bad humour, as he is lively or dull, angry or 
pleafed, melancholy or cheerful. 

Lord Kames, in his Elements of Crlticifm, and Dr Gerard 
in his EfTay on Genius, have given a much fuller and jufter enu- 
meration of the caufes that influence our train of thinking, and 
I have nothing to add to what they have faid on this fubjedl. 

Secondly, Let us confider how far this attradlon of ideas mufl 
be refolved into original qualities of human nature, 

Hhh I 

426 E S S A Y IV. 

^^^■^' ^^ '' ^ believe the original principles of the mind, of which we can 
give no account, but that fuch is our conflitution, are more in 
number than is commonly thought. But we ought not to mul- 
tiply them without neceflity. 

That trains of thinking, which by frequent repetition have be- 
come familiar, Ihould fpontaneoufly offer themfelves to our fancy, 
feems to require no other original quality but the power of habit. 

In all rational thinking, and in all rational difcourfe, whether 
ferious or facetious, the thought mufl have fome relation to what 
went before. Every man, therefore, from the dawn of reafon, 
muft have been accuftomed to a train of related objeds. Thefe 
pleafe the underflanding, and by cuftom become like beaten tracks 
which invite the traveller. 

As far as it is in our power to give a dire«5lion to our thoughts, 
which it is undoubtedly in a great degree, they will be direded. 
by the adlive principles common to men, by our appetites, our 
paffions, our affe<5lions, our reafon, and confcience. And that 
the trains of thinking in our minds are chiefly governed by thefe, 
according as one or another prevails at the time, every man will 
find in his experience. 

If the mind is at any time vacant from every pafllon and defire, 
there are ftill fome objects that are more acceptable to us than 
others. The facetious man is pleafed with furpriling fimilitudes 
or contrails ; the Philofopher with the relations of things that are 
fubfervient to reafoning ; the Merchant with what tends to profit ; 
and the Politician with what may mend the (late. 

A good writer of comedy or romance can feign a train of think- 
ing for any of the pcrfons of his fable, which appears very natu- 
ral, and is approved by the bed judges. Now, what is it that en- 
titles fuch a ficflion to approbation ? Is it that the author has given 
a nice attention to the relations of caufation, contiguity, and fimi- 



litude in the ideas ? This furely is the leaft part of its merit. But 
the chief part confifts in this, that it correfponds perfedly with 
the general charadler, the rank, the habits, the prefent fituation 
and paflions of the perfon. If this be a juft way of judging in 
criticifm, it follows neceflarily, that the circumftances laft men- 
tioned have the chief influence in fuggefting our trains of thought. 

It cannot be denied, that the ftate of the body has an influence 
upon our imagination, according as a man is fober or drunk, as 
he is fatigued or refreflied. Crudities and indigeflion are faid to 
give uneafy dreams, and have probably a like efFed upon the 
waking thoughts. Opium gives to fome perfons pleafing dreams, 
and pleafing imaginations when awake, and to others fuch as are 
horrible and diftrefling. 

Thefe influences of the body upon the mind can only be known 
by experience, and I believe we can give no account of them. 

Nor can we, perhaps, give any reafon why we muft think with- 
out ceafing while we are awake. I believe we are likewife ori- 
ginally difpofed, in imagination, to pafs from any one objecfl of 
thought to others that are contiguous to it in time or place. This, 
I think, may be obferved in brutes and in idiots, as well as in 
children, before any habit can be acquired that might account for 
ic. The fight of an objedl is apt to fuggeft to the imagination 
what has been feen or felt in conjundion with it, even when the 
memory of that conjunction is gone. 

Such conjunctions of things influence not only the imagination, 
but the belief and the paflions, efpecially in children and in 
brutes j and perhaps all that we call memory in brutes is fome- 
thing of this kind. 

They expeifl events in the fame order and fucceflion in which 
they happened before ; and by this expectation, their aCtions and 
paflions, as well as their thoughts, are regulated. A horfe takes 

H h h 2 fright 

V ^ ' 

428 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP. IV. fright at the place where fome objedl frighted him before* We are 
apt to conchide from this, that he remembers the former accident. 
But perhaps there is only an aflbciation formed in his mind between 
the place and the paffion of fear, without any diftincfl remembrance. 

Mr Locke has given us a very good chapter upon the alTocia- 
tion of ideas ; and by the examples he has given to illuftrate this 
dodlrine, I think it appears that very ftrong affociations may be 
formed at once ; not of ideas to ideas only, but of ideas to paf- 
lions and emotions ; and that ftrong affociations are never formed 
at once, but when accompanied by fome ftrong paffion or emotion. 
I believe this muft be refolved into the conftitution of our nature. 

Mr Hume's opinion, that the complex ideas, which are the com- 
mon objedls of difcourfe and reafoning, are formed by thofe ori- 
ginal attradlions of ideas, to which he afcribes the train of thoughts 
in the mind, will come under confideration in another place. 

To put an end to our remarks upon this theory of Mr Hume, 
I think he has real merit in bringing this curious fubjedl under 
the view of Philofophers, and carrying it a certain length. But I 
fee nothing in this theory that fhould hinder us to conclude, that 
every thing in the trains of our thought, which bears the marks 
of judgment and reafon, has been the produd of judgment and 
reafon previoufly exercifed, either by the perfon himfelf, at that 
or fome former time, or by fome other perfon. The attraction of 
ideas will be the fame in a man's fccond thoughts upon any fubjedl 
as in his firft. Or if fome change in his circumftances, or in the 
objedls about him, fhould make any change in the attracftions of 
his ideas, it is an equal chance whether the fecond be better than 
the firft, or whether they be worfe. But it is certain that every 
man of judgment and tafte will, upon a review, correcSl that train 
of thought which firft prefented itfelf. If the attradlions of ideas 
are the fole caufes of the regular arrangement of thought in the 
fancy, there is no ufe for judgment or tafte in any compofition, 
nor indeed any room for their operation. 



■ 1.1*' 
There are other refledlions of a more pradlical nature, and of CHAp. iv^^ 
higher importance, to which this fubjed leads. -""""^ 

I believe it will be allowed by every man, that our happinefs or 
mlfery in life, that our improvement in any arj: or fcier^qe which 
we profefs, and that our improvement in jeaT virtue and' coodnefs/ 
depend .m a very great degree on the train of thinking, 'that occu- 
pies the mind both in our vacant and in our more' ferious hours,' 
As far therefore as the diredlion of our thoughts is in our povver,' 
(and that it is a. great meafure, cannot be doubted) it is of 
the laft importance to give then) that diredion. which is moft fub- 

fervient to .thole Valuabk pnr^joies:';'' '''/' ^';^ ^^ "'^'"^^ -i^diii: dnw 
,:;:..... ;.,;.v i 'jc'.i [[;: torn h^inarjl ii 'A g^xna 

What'ettlt)lfcy'itfefiF(['in bTtiWwonhj c^r i'^^, "e^R'6re''ihTagr3 
nation is occupied only about things low and bafe, and grovels itt' 
a narrow field of mean unanimating and uninterefting objeds, ifi-^ 
fenfible to thofe finer and more delicate fentimentSj and blinci- 
to thofe more enlarged and nobler views which elevate the foul, 
and make it confcious of its dignity. 

How different from Him, whofe imagination, Hkcan eagle in her 
flighty takes a wide profpedl, and obferves whatever it prefents, that 
is new or beautiful, grand or important ; whofe rapid vising varies 
the fcene every moment, carrying him fometimes through the fairy 
regions of wit and fancy, fometimes through the more regular and. 
fober walks of fcience and philofophy. 

The various objeds which he furveys, according to their dlfTer- 
cnt degrees of beauty and dignity, raife in him the lively and- 
agreeable emotions of tafle^ Illuftrious human charaders, as they 
pafs in. review, clothed with their moral qualities, touch his heart, 
fllll more deeply. They riot, only awaken the fenfe of beauty, hue, 
excite the fentiment of approbation, and kindle the glow of virtue. 

While he views what is truly, great, and glorious in human con-, 
dud, his foul catches the divine flame, and burns with defire to. 
eniulate what it admires. 


430 E S S A Y IV. 

CHAP. IV^ The human imagination is an ample theatre, upon which every 
thing in human life, good or bad, great or mean, laudable or 
bafc, is aded. 

In children, and in fome frivolous minds, it is a mere toy-fliop. 
And in fome, who exercife their memory without their judgment, 
its furniture is made up of old fcraps of knowledge, that are 
thread-bare and worn out. 

In fome, this theatre is often occupied by ghaftly fuperftition, 
with all her train of Gorgons, and Hydras^ and Chimeras dire. Some- 
times it is haunted with all the infernal demons, and made the 
forge of plots, and rapine, and murder. Here every thing that is 
black and deteftable is firft contrived, and a thoufand wicked de- 
figns conceived that are never executed. Here, too, the Furies adl 
their part, taking a fevere though fecret vengeance upon the felf- 
condemned criminal. 

How happy is that mind, in which the light of real knowledge 
difpels the phantoms of fuperftition : In which the belief and re- 
verence of a perfect all-governing Mind cafts out all fear but the 
fear of adling wrong : In which ferenity and cheerfulnefs, inno- 
cence, humanity, and candour, guard the imagination againft the 
entrance of every unhallowed intruder, and invite more amiable 
and worthier guefts to dwell ! 

There fliall the Mufes, the Graces, and the Virtues, fix their abode; 
for every thing that is great and worthy in human condudl mud 
have been conceived in the imagination before it was brought in- 
to a<5t. And many great and good defigns have been formed there, 
which, for want of power and opportunity, have proved abortive. 

The man, whofe imagination is occupied by thefe guefts, muft 
be wife ; he muft be good ; and he muft be happy. 





O F A B S T R A C T I O N. 


Of General Words, 

THE words we ufe in language are either general wortls, or 
proper names. Proper names are intended to fignify one in- 
dividual only. Such are the names of men, kingdoms, provinces, 
cities, rivers, and of every other creature of God, or work of man, 
which we chufe to diftingui(h from all others of the kind, by a 
name appropriated to it. All the other words of language are ge- 
neral words, not appropriated to fignify any one individual thing, 
but equally related to many. 

Under general words therefore, I comprehend not only thofe 
which Logicians call general terms, that is, fuch general words as 
may make the fubjedl or the predicate of a propofition, but like- 
wife their auxiliaries or acceflbries, as the learned Mr Harris calls 
them ; fuch as prepofitions, conjunctions, articles, which are all 
general words, though they cannot properly be called general terms. 

In every language, rude or polifhed, general words make the 
greateft: part, and proper names the leaft. Grammarians have re- 
duced all words to eight or nine clalTes, which are called pares of 
fpeech. Of thefe there is only one, to wit, that of nouns^ wherein 


432 ESSAY V. 

CHAP. J.^ proper names are found. All pronouns^ verbs, participlesy adverbs^ ar- 
ticles, prepojitions, cotijtinElions , and interje&ions, are general words. Of 
nouns, all adjeElives are general words, and the greater part oi fub- 
Jlantives. Every fubftantive that has a plural number, is a general 
word ; for no proper name can have a plural number, becaufe it 
fignifies only one individual. In all the fifteen books of Euclid's 
Elements, there is not one word that is not general ; and the fame 
may be faid of many large volumes. 

At the fame time it mufl be acknowledged, that all the objedls 
we perceive are individuals. Every objcdl of fenfe, of memory, or 
of confcioufnefs, is an individual obje(5l. All the good things we 
enjoy or defire, and all the evils we feel or fear, mufl come from 
individuals ; and I think we may venture to fay, that every crea- 
ture which God has made, in the heavens above, or in the earth 
beneath^ or in the waters under the earth, is an individual. 

How comes it to pafs then, that in all languages general words 
make the greatcfl part of the language, and proper names but a 
^rery fmall and inconfiderable part of it ? 

.TTMs feemingly ftrange phsenomfinon rttay^ I think, be eafily ac- 
counted for by the following obfervations. 

Firjl, Though there be a few individuals that are obvious to the 
notice of all men, and therefore have proper names in all languages ; 
fuch as the fun and moon, the earth and fea ; yet the greateft part 
of the things to which we think fit to give proper names are local j 
known perhaps to a village or to a neighbourhood, but unknown 
to the greater part of thofe who fpeak the fame language, and to 
all the reft of mankind. The names of fuch things being confined 
to a corner, and having no names anfwering to them in other lan- 
■guages, are not accounted a part of the language, any more than 
the cuftoms of a particular hamlet are accounted part of the law 
of the nation. 




For this reafon, there are but few proper names that belong to ^CHAP. i. 
a language. It is next to be confidered why there mull be many- 
general words in every language. 

Secondly, It may be obferved, that every individual obje(5l that 
falls within our view has various attributes ; and it is by them that 
it becomes ufeful or hurtful to us : We know not the eflence of 
any individual objecfl ; all the knowledge we can attain of it, is 
the knowledge of its attributes ; its quantity, its various qualities, 
its various relations to other things, its place, its fituation, and 
morions. It is by fuch attributes of things only that we can com- 
mvmicate our knowledge of them to others : By their attributes, 
our hopes or fears from them are regulated ; and it is only by at- 
tention to their attribvites that we can make them fubfervient to 
our ends ; and therefore we give names to fuch attributes. 

Now all attributes muft from their nature be exprefled by general 
words, and are fo exprefled in all languages. In the ancient philo- 
fophy, attributes in general were called by two names which ex- 
prefs their nature. They were called univerfals, becaufe they might 
belong equally to many individuals, and are not confined to one : 
They were alfo called predicables, becaufe whatever is predicated, 
that is, aflSrmed or denied of one fubjecl, may be, of more, and 
therefore is an univerfal, and exprefled by a general word. A pre- 
dicable therefore fignifies the fame thing as an attribute, with this 
difference only, that the firft is Latin, the lafl: Englifli. The attri- 
butes we find either in the creatures of God, or in the works of 
men, are common to many individuals : We either find it to be 
fo, or prefume it may be fo, and give them the fame name in every 
fubje(fl to which they belong. 

There are not only attributes belonging to individual fubjedts, but 
there are likewife attributes of attributes, which may be called fecon- 
dary attributes. Moft attributes are capable of different degrees, and 
different modifications, which muft be exprefled by general words. 

I i i Thus 



CHAP. I. Thus ic is an attribute of many bodies to be moved ; but motion 

may be in an endlefs variety of diredlions. It may be quick or 
flow, redlilineal or curvilineal ; it may be equable, or accelerated, 
or retarded. 

As all attributes, therefore, vphether primary or fecondary, arc 
exprefled by general words, it follows, that in every proportion we 
exprefs in language, what is affirmed or denied of the fubje(5l of 
the propofition mufl be exprefled by general words : And that the 
fubjed of the propofition may often be a general word, will appear 
from the next obfervation. 

T'hirdiyi The fame faculties by which we diftinguiflx the 
different attributes belonging to the fame fubjedt, and give names 
to them, enable us likewife to obferve, that many fubje(5ts agree 
in certain attributes, while they differ in others. By this means 
we are enabled to reduce individuals which are infinite, to a li- 
mited number of clafTes, which are called kinds and forts; and in 
the fcholaftic language, genera znd fpecies. 

Obferving many individuals to agree in certain attributes, we 
refer them all to one clafs, and give a name to the clafs : This name 
comprehends in its fignification not one attribute only, but all the 
attributes which diftinguifh that clafs ; and by aifirming this name 
of any individual, we affirm it to have all the attributes which cha- 
raderize the clafs : Thus men, dogs, horfes, elephants, are fo many 
different clafTes of animals. In like manner we marfhal other fub- 
ftances, vegetable and inanimate, into clafles. 

Nor is it only fubftances that we thus form into clafTes. We do 
the fame with regard to qualities, relations, adions, affedions, 
paffions, and all other things. 

When a clafs is very large, it is divided into fubordinate clafTes 
in the fame manner. The higher clafs is called a genus or kind j 




the lower 9. /pedes or fort of the higher : Sometimes a fpecies is ftill P^^;^ 
fubdivided into fubordinate fpecies; and this fubdivifion is carried 
on as far as is found convenient for the purpofe of language, or 
for the improvement of knowledge. 

In this diflrlbution of things into genera and fpecies^ it is evi- 
dent that the name of the fpecies comprehends more attributes than 
the name of the genus. The fpecies comprehends all that is in the 
genus, and thofe attributes likewife which diftinguifh that fpecies 
from others belonging to the fame genus ; and the more fubdivi- - 
fions we make, the names of the lower become ftill the more com- 
prehenfive in their fignification, but the lefs extenfive in their ap- 
plication to individuals. 

Hence it is an axiom in logic, that the more extenfive any ge- 
neral term is, it is the lefs comprehenfive ; and on the contrary, 
the more comprehenfive, the lefs extenfive : Thus, in the following 
feries of fubordinate general terms, animal, man. Frenchman, Pa- 
rifian, every fubfequent term comprehends in its fignification all 
that is in the preceding, and fomething more ; and every antece- 
dent term extends to more individuals than the fubfequent. 

Such divifions and fubdivifions of things into genera and /pedes 
with general names, are not confined to the learned and polilhed 
languages ; they are found in thofe of the rudeft tribes of man- 
kind : From which we learn, that the invention and the ufe of ge- 
neral words, both to fignify the attributes of things, and to fignify 
the genera znd /peciet of things, is not a fubtile invention of Philo- 
fophers, but an operation which all men perform by the light of 
common fenfe. Philofophers may fpeculate about this operation, 
and reduce it to canons and aphorifms ; but men of common un- 
derftanding, without knowing any thing of the philofophy of it, 
can put it in practice; in like manner as they can fee objeds, and 
make good ufe of their eyes, although they know nothing of the 
ftrudlure of the eye, or of the theory of vifion. 

I i i 2 Every 

43^ E S S A Y V. 

V ,, 1 

Evqry genus, and every fpecies of things, may be either the fub- 
jedl or the predicate of a proportion, nay of innumerable propofi- 
tions; for every attribute common to the genus or fpecies may be 
affirmed of it j and the genus may be affirmed of every fpecies, 
and both genus and fpecies of every individual to which it extends. 

Thus of man it may be affirmed, that he is an animal made up 
of body and mind ; that he is of few days, and full of trouble ; 
that he is capable of various Improvements in arts, in knowledge, 
and in virtue. In a word, every thing common to the fpecies may 
be affirmed of man ; and of all fuch propofitions, which are innu- 
merable, man is the fubje(5l. 

Again, of every nation and tribe, and of every individual of 
the human race that is, or was, or (hall be, it may be affirmed that 
they are men. In all fuch propofitions, which are innumerable^ 
man is the predicate of the propofition. 

"We obferved above an extenfion and a comprehenfion in gene- 
ral terms ; and that in any fubdivifion of things the name of the 
lowed fpecies is moft comprehenfive, and that of the highefl: ge- 
nus moil extenfive. I would now obferve, that, by means of fuch 
general terms, there is alfo an extenfion and comprehenfion of pro- 
pofitions, which is one of the nobleft powers of language, and fits 
it for expreffing, with great eafe and expedition, the higheft attain- 
ments in knowledge, of which the human underftanding is capable. 

When the predicate is a genus or a^ecies, the propofition is more 
or lefs comprehenfive, according as the predicate is. Thus, when 
I fay that this feal is gold, by this fingle propofition, I affirm of it 
all the properties which that metal is known to have. When I fay 
of any man that he is a Mathematician, this appellation compre- 
hends all the attributes that belong to him as an animal, as a man, 
and as one who has ftudied mathematics. When I fay that the or- 
bit of the planet Mercury is an ellipfis, I thereby affirm of that or- 

. O F G E N E R A L W O R D S. 437 

bit all the properties which Apollonius and other Geometricians , chap. I . 
have difcovered, or may difcover, of that fpecies of figure. 

Again, when the fubjedl of a propofition is a genus or z. fpecies^. 
the propofition is more or lefs extenfive, according as the fubje<5l is. 
Thus when I am taught, that the three angles of a plane triangle 
are equal to two right angles, this properly extends to every fpecies 
of plane triangle, and to every individual plane triangle that did, 
or docs, or can exifl. 

It is by means of fuch extenfive and comprehenfive propofitions 
that human knowledge is condenfed, as it were, into a fize adapt- 
ed to the capacity of the human mind, with great addition to its 
beauty, and without any diminution of its diftin(5tnefs and per- 

General propofitions in fcience may be compared to the feed of 
a plant, which, according to fome Philofophers, has not only the 
whole future plant inclofed within it, but the feeds of that plant, 
and the plants that fliall fpring from them through all future ge- 

But the fimilitude falls fhort in this refpedl, that time and acci- 
dents, not in our power, mufl concur to difclofe the contents of 
the feed, and bring them into our view ; whereas the contents of a 
general propofition may be brought forth, ripened, and expofed to 
view at our pleafure, and in an inftant. 

Thus the wifdom of ages, and the moft fublime theorems of 
fcience, may be laid up, like an Iliad in a nut-£hell, and tranfmit- 
ted to future generations. And this noble purpofe of language 
can only be accompliihed, by means of general words annexed to 
the divifions and fubdivifions of things. 

What has been did in this chaptei , I think, is fufficient to fliew,. 


438 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP, i. ^ that there can be no language, not fo much as a Cngle propofition, 

without general words ; that they muft make the greatefl part of 

every language, and that it is by them only that language is fitted 

• to exprefs, with wonderful eafe and expedition, all the treafures of 

human wifdom and knowledge. 


Of general Conceptions, 

AS general words are fo neceflary in language, it is natural to 
conclude that there muft be general conceptions, of which 
they are the figns. 

Words are empty founds when they do not fignify the thoughts 
of the fpeaker ; and it is only from their fignification that they are 
denominated general. Every word that is fpoken, confidered 
merely as a found, is an individual found. And it can only be 
called a general word, becaufe that which it fignifies is general. 
Now, that which it fignifies, is conceived by the mind both of the 
fpeaker and hearer, if the word have a diftinift meaning, and be 
diftindtly underftood. It is therefore impoffible that words can 
have a general fignification, unlefs there be conceptions in the 
mind of the fpeaker, and of the hearer, of things that are general. 
It is to fuch that I give the name of general conceptions : And it 
ought to be obferved, that they take this denomination, not from 
the a(5l of the mind in conceiving, which is an individual adl, but 
from the object, or thing conceived, which is general. 

We are therefore here to confider whether we have fuch general 
conceptions, and how they are formed. 

To begin with the conceptions expreflcd by general terms, that 



is, by fuch general words as may be the fubje<5l or the predicate CHAr. ir. 
of a propofition. They are either attributes of things, or they are 
genera or f pedes of things. 

It is evident, with refpecfl to all the individuals we are ac- 
quainted with, that we have a more clear and diftinft conception 
of their attributes, than of the fubjed to which thofe attributes 

Take, for inflance, any individual body we have accefs to know, 
what conception do w^e form of it ? Every man may know this 
from his confcioufnefs. He will find that he conceives it as a 
thing that has length, breadth, and thicknefs, fuch a figure, and 
fuch a colour ; that it is hard, or foft, or fluid ; that it has fuch 
qualities, and is fit for fuch purpofes. If it is a vegetable, he may 
know where it grew, what is the form of its leaves, and flower, and 
feed. If an animal, what are its natural inftinds, its manner of 
life, and of rearing its young : Of thefe attributes belonging to 
this individual, and numberlefs others, he may furely have a 
diftindl conception ; and he will find words in language by which 
he can clearly and diftindlly exprefs each of them. 

If we confider, in like manner, the conception we form of any 
individual perfon of our acquaintance, we fliall find it to be made 
up of various attributes, which we afcrlbe to him ; fuch as, that 
he is the fon of fuch a man, the brother of fuch another, that he 
has fuch an employment or office, has fuch a fortune, that he 
is tall or fliort, well or ill made, comely or ill favoured, young or 
old, married or unmarried ; to this we may add, his temper, 
his charatfter, his abilities, and perhaps fome anecdotes of his 

Such is the conception we form of individual perfons of our ac- 
quaintance. By fuch attributes we defcribe them to thofe who know 
them not ; and by fuch attributes Hiftorians give us a conception 




CHAP. II. of the perfonages of former times. Nor is it poflible to do it in 
any other way. 

All the diflindl knowledge we have or can attain of any indi- 
vidual, is the knowledge of its attributes : For we know not the 
eflence of afty individual. This feems to be beyond the reach of 
the human faculties. 

Now, every attribute is what the ancients called an univerfal. 
It is, or may be, common to various individuals. There is no 
attribute belonging to any creature of God which may not belong 
toothers; and, on this account, attributes, in all languages, are 
exprefled by general words. 

It appears likewife, from every man's experience, that he may 
have as clear and diftindl a conception of fuch attributes as we 
have named, and of innumerable others, as he can have of any 
individual to which they belong. 

Indeed, the attributes of individuals is all that we diftindlly 
conceive about them. It is true, we conceive a fubjedl to which 
the attributes belong ; but of this fubjed, when its attributes are 
fet afide, we have but an obfcure and relative conception, whe- 
ther it be body or mind. 

This was before obferved with regard to bodies, Eflay II. 
chap. 19. to which we refer, and it is no lefs evident with regard tp 
minds. What is it we call a mind ? It is a thinking, intelligent, 
adlive being. Granting that thinking, intelligence, and adlivity, 
are attributes of mind, I want to know what the thing or being 
is to which thefe attributes belong ? To this queflion I can find 
no fatisfying anfwer. The attributes of mind, and particularly 
its operations, we know clearly ; but of the thing itfelf we have 
only an obfcure notion. 



Nature teaches us, that thinking and reafoning are attributes, CHAP. IL 
which cannot exifl: without a fubje<5l ; but of that fubjedl I believe 
the' beft notion we can form implies little more than that it is the 
fubjedl of fuch attributes. 

Whether other created beings may have the knowledge of the 
real efTence of created things, fo as to be able to deduce their at- 
tributes from their effence and conftitution, or whether this be 
the prerogative of him who made them, we cannot tell ; but it is 
a knowledge which feems to be quite beyond the reach of the 
human faculties. 

We know the efTence of a triangle, and from that efTence can 
deduce its properties. It is an univerfal, and might have been 
conceived by the human mind, though no individual triangle had 
ever exifted. It has only what Mr Locke calls a nominal efTence, 
which is exprefTed in its definition. But every thing that exifts 
has a real efTence, which is above our comprehenlion ; and there- 
fore we cannot deduce its properties or attributes from its nature, - 
as we do in the triangle. We mufl take a contrary road in the 
knowledge of God's works, and fatisfy ourfelves with their attri- 
butes as fadls, and with the general convidlion that there is a fub- 
jedl to which thofe attributes belong. 

Enough, I think, has been faid, to fhow, not only that we may 
have clear and diflindl conceptions of attributes, but that they 
are the only things, with regard to individuals, of which we have 
a clear and diflincl conception. 

The other clafs of general terms are thofe that fignify the genera 
and [pedes into which we divide and fubdivide things. And if 
we be able to form diflindt conceptions of attributes, it cannot 
furely be denied that we may have diftin(5l conceptions of genera 
and /pedes ; becaufe they are only collections of attributes which 
we conceive to exifl in a fubjed, and to which we give a general 

K k k name. 



CHAP. II. name. If the attributes comprehended under that general name 
be difl:in(flly conceived, the thing meant by the name muft be 
difl;in<5lly conceived. And the name may juftly be attributed tcr 
every individual which has thofe attributes. 

Thus, I conceive diftinftly what it is to have wings, to be co- 
vered with feathers, to lay eggs. Suppofe then that we give the 
name of bird to every animal that has thefe three attributes. 
Here undoubtedly my conception of a bird is as di{lin<5l as my 
notion of the attributes which are common to this fpecies : And if 
this be admitted to be the definition of a bird, there is nothing } 
conceive more diftin6lly. If I had never feen a bird, and can 
but be made to underfland the definition, I can eafily apply it to 
every individual of the fpecies, without danger of miflake. 

When things are divided and fubdlvlded by men of fcience, 
and names given to the genera z.nd. fpecies^ thofe names are defined. 
Thus, the genera and fpecies of plants, and of other natural bodies, 
arc accurately defined by the writers in the various branches of 
natural hiftory ; fo that, to all future generations, the definition 
will convey a di(lin<5l notion of the genus or fpecies defined. 

There are, without doubt, many words fignifying genera and 
fpecies of things, which have a meaning fomewhat vague and in- 
di{lin(5t ; fo that thofe who fpeak the fame language do not al- 
ways ufe them in the fame fenfe. But if we attend to the caufe 
of this indiftindlnefs, we fhall find, that It is not owing to their 
being general terms, but to this, that there is no definition of 
them that has authority. Their meaning, therefore, has not been 
learned by a definition, but by a kind of indudlion, by obfervlng 
to what individuals they are applied by thofe who underfland the 
language. We learn by habit to ufe them as we fee others do, 
even when we have not a precife meaning annexed to them. A 
man may know, that to certain individuals they may be applied 
with propriety ; but whether they can be applied to certain other 



individuals, he may be uncertain, either from want of good au- CHAP. 11. 
thorities, or from having contrary authorities, which leave him 
in doubt. 

Thus, a man may know, that when he applies the name of 
beaft to a lion or a tyger, and the name of bird to an eagle or a 
turkey, he fpeaks properly. But whether a bat be a bird or a 
beaft, he may be uncertain. If there was any accurate definition 
of a beaft and of a bird, that was of fufficient authority, he could 
be at no lofs. 

It is faid to have been fometimes a matter of difpute, with re- 
gard to a monftrous birth of a woman, whether it was a man or 
not. Although this be in reality a queftion about the meaning of 
a word, it may be of importance, on account of the privileges 
which laws have annexed to the human charadler. To make fuch 
laws perfedlly precife, the definition of a man would be neceflary, 
which I believe Legiflators have feldom or never thought fit to 
give. It is, indeed, very difficult to fix a definition of fo com- 
mon a word, and the cafes wherein it would be of any ufe fo 
rarely occur, that perhaps it may be better, when they do occur, 
to leave them to the determination of a judge or of a jury, than 
to give a definition, which might be attended with unforefeen 

A genus or fpecies, being a colle(5lion of attributes, conceived 
to exift in one fubjedl, a definition is the only way to prevent any 
addition or diminution of its ingredients in the conception of dif- 
ferent perfons ; and when there is no definition that can be appeal- 
ed to as a ftandard, the name will hardly retain the moft perfe<3: 
precifion in its fignification. 

From what has been faid, I conceive it is evident, that the words 
which fignify genera and fpecies of things have often as precife 
and definite a fignification as any words whatfoever ; and that 

K k k 2 when 

444 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP. 11.^ when it is oiherwife, their want of precifion is not owiiig to their 
being general words, but to other caufes. 

Having fliewn that we may have a perfedly clear and diftincfl 
conception of the meaning of general terms, we may, I think, 
take it for granted, that the fame may be faid of other general 
words, fuch as prepofitions, conjundlions, articles. My defigh at 
prefent being only to Ihew, that we have general conceptions no 
lefs clear and diftindl than thofe of individuals, it is fufficient for 
this purpofe, if this appears with regard to the conceptions eXf 
prelTed by general terms. To conceive the meaning of a general 
word, and to conceive that which it fignifies, is the fame thing. 
We conceive diftinclly the meaning of general terms, therefore we 
conceive diftindlly that which they fignify. But fuch terms do 
not fignify any individual^ byt what vs common to many indivi^ 
duals ; therefore, we have a diftindl conception of things common 
to many individuals, that is, we have, diliind general concjeptions. 

We muft her6 beware of the aJmbTgAity of t3ie 'word- conception:, 
which fometimes fignifies the adl of the mind in conceiving, ibme- 
times the thing conceived, which is the objcdl of that a6l. If the 
word be taken in the firft fenie, I acknowledge that every adl of 
the mind is an individual a(5l ; the nni-verfality, therefore, is not 
in the adl of the mind, but in the objecft, or thing conceived. The 
thing conceived is an attribute common to many fubje<5ts, or it is 
a genus or fpecies common to many individuals. 

Suppofe I conceive a triangle, that is, a plain figure terminated 
by three right lines. He that underllands this definition uiftin<5lly 
has a diftincl conception of a triangle. But a uiangle is not an 
individual ; it is a fpecies. The adt of nay underftanding in con- 
ceiving it is an individual adl, and has a real exiftence; but the 
thing conceived is general, and cannot exift without other attri- 
butes, which are not included in the definition. 



Every triangle that really exifts mufl have a certain length of ^i^^llL 
fides and meafure of angles ; it mud have place and time. But the 
definition of a triangle includes neither exiftence, nor any of thofe 
attributes ; and therefore they are not included in the conception 
of a triangle, which cannot be accurate if it comprehend more 
than the definition. 

Thus 1 think it appears to be evident, that we have general con- 
ceptions that are char and dillindl, both of attributes of things, 
and of genera and fpecies of things. 


Of general Conceptions formed by analyfmg Objects ^ 

WE are next to confider the operations of the underftanding,, 
by which we are enabled to form general conceptions. 

Thefe appear to me to be three ; frjt^ The refolving or ana- 
Tyfing a fubjedl into its known attributes, and giving a name ta 
each attribute, which name fhall fignify that attribute, and no- 
thing more. 

Secondly, The obferving one or more fuch attributes to be com- 
mon to many fubjeds. The firft is by Philofophers called abjlrac- 
tion ; the fecond may be czWe^ generaltfing ; but both are com- 
monly included under the name of abJlraElion. 

It is difiicult to fay which of them goes firft, or whether they 
are not fo clofely connedled that neither can claim the precedence.. 
For on the one hand, to perceive an agreement between two or" 
more obje(fls in the fame attribute, feems to require nothing more 


446 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP. III. than to compare them together. A favage, upon feeing fnow and 
chalk, would find no difEculty in perceiving that they have the 
fame colour. Yet, on the other hand, it feems impoffible that he 
fhould obferve this agreement without abftradlion, that is, diflin- 
guifliing in his conception the colour, wherein thofe two objedls 
agree, from the other qualities wherein they difagree. 

It feems therefore, that we cannot generalife without fome degree 
of abftra6lion ; but I apprehend we may abftradl without genera- 
lifing : For what hinders me from attending to the whitenefs of the 
paper before me, without applying that colour to any other obje6l: 
The whitenefs of this individual obje6l is an abftradl conception, 
but not a general one, while applied to one individual only. Thefe 
two operations, however, are fubfervient to each other ; for the more 
attributes we obferve and diilinguifh in any one individual, the 
more agreements we £hali difcover between it and other individuals. 

A third operation of the underftanding, by which we form ab- 
ftradl conceptions, is the combining into one whole a certain num- 
ber of thofe attributes of which we have formed abflra<5l notions, 
and giving a name to that combination. It is thus we form abftra6l 
notions of the genera and fpecies of things. Thefe three operations 
we ihall confider in order. 

With regard to abflradlion, flridlly fo called, I can perceive no- 
thing in it that is difficult either to be underftood or pradlifed. 
What can be more eafy than to diilinguifh the different attributes 
which we know to belong to a fubjedl ? In a man, for inftance, to 
diilinguifh his fize, his complexion, his age, his fortune, his birth, 
his profeflion, and twenty other things that belong to him. To 
think and fpeak of thefe things with underflanding, is furely within 
the reach of ev.ery man endowed with the human faculties. 

There may be diflindlions that require nice difcernment, or an 
acquaintance with the fubjedl that is not common. Thus, a critic 



in painting may difcern the flyle of Raphael or Titian, when CHAP. ill. 
another man could not. A lawyer may be acquainted with ma- 
ny diftindtions in crimes, and coptrad^s, and ad\ions, which ne- 
ver occurred to a man who has not (ludied law. One man may 
excel another in the talent of diflinguilTiing, as he may in memor,y 
or in reafoning ; but there is a certain degree of this talent, with- 
out which a man would have no title to be confidered as a reafon- 
able creature. 

It ought likewlfe to be obferved, that attributes may with perfed: 
eafe be diftinguifhed and disjoined in our conception, which can- 
not be a(5lually feparated in the fubje(5l. Thus, in a body, I can 
diflinguifh its folidity from its extenfion, and its weight from both. 
In extenfion I can diftinguifh length, breadth, and thicknefs, yet 
none of thefe can be feparated from the body, or from one another. 
There may be attributes belonging to a fubjedl, and infeparable 
from it, of which we have no knowledge, and confequently no 
conception ; but this does not hinder our conceiving diftindtly 
thofe of its attributes which we know. 

Thus, all the properties of a circle are infeparable from the na- 
ture of a circle, and may be demonftrated from its definition ; yet 
a man may have a perfedlly diftindl notion of a circle, who knows 
very few of thofe properties of it which Mathematicians have de- 
monftrated ; and a circle probably has many properties which no 
Mathematician ever dreamed of. 

It is therefore certain, that attributes, which in their nature are 
abfolutely infeparable from their fubjedl, and from one another, 
may be disjoined in our conception ; one cannot exift without the 
other, but one can be conceived without the other. 

Having confidered abftra(5lion, ftricflly Co called, let us next con- 
fider the operation of generalifing, which is nothing but the ob- 
fervlng one or more attributes to be common to many fubjeifls. 


448 ESSAY V. 

CHAP. III. If any man can doubt whether there be attributes that are really 
common to many individuals, let him confider whether there be 
not many men that are above fix feet high, and many below it ; 
whether there be not many men that are rich, and many more that 
are poor ; whether there be not many that were born in Britain, 
and many that were born in France. To multiply inftances of this 
kind, would be to affront the reader's underftanding. It is certain 
therefore, that there are innumerable attributes that are really com- 
mon to many individuals ; and if this be what the fchoolmen 
called univerfale a parte rei^ we may affirm with certainty, that tliere 
■are fuch univerfals. 

There are fome attributes expreffed by general words, of which 
this may feem more doubtful. Such are the qualities which are 
inherent in their feveral fubjecls. It may be faid that every fub- 
jedl hath its own qualities, and that which is the quality of one 
^ fubjecl cannot be the quality of another fubjed. Thus the white- 

nefs of the flieet of paper upon which I write, cannot be the white- 
nefs of another flieet, though both are called white. The weight 
of one guinea is not the weight of another guinea, though both 
are faid to have the fame weight. 

To this I anfwer, that the whitenefs of this flieet is one thing, 
whitenefs is another ; the conceptions fignified by thefe two forms 
of fpeech are as different as the expreffions : The firft fignifies an 
individual quality really exifting, and is not a general conception, 
though it be an abflradl one : The fecond fignifies a general concep- 
tion, which implies no exiftence, but may be predicated of every 
thing that is white, and in the fame fenfe. On this account, if 
one fhould fay, that the whitenefs of this fiieet is the whitenefs of 
another fheet, every man perceives this to be abfurd , but when he 
fays both fheets are white, this is true and perfedlly underflood. 
The conception of whitenefs implies no exiftence; it would remain 
the fame, though every thing in the univerfe that is white were 



It appears therefore, that the general names of qualities, as well pHAP. iii . 
as of other attributes, are applicable to many individuals in the 
fame fenfe, which cannot be if there be not general conceptions 
fignified by fuch names. 

If it Ihould be afked, how early, or at what period of life, men 
begin to form general conceptions ? I anfwer. As foon as a child can 
fay, with underflanding, that he has two brothers or two fifters ; as 
foon as he can ufe the plural number, he mud have general con- 
ceptions ; for no individual can have a plural number. 

As there are not two individuals in nature that agree in every 
thing, fo there are very few that do not agree in fbme things. We 
take pleafure from very early years in obferving fuch agreements. 
One great branch of what we call wif, which when innocent, gives 
pleafure to every good natured man, conGfts in difcovering unex- 
pedled agreements in things. The author of Hudibras could 
difcern a property common to the morning and a boiled lobfter, 
that both turn from black to red. Swift could fee fomething 
common to wit and an old cheefe. Such unexpected agreements 
may fliew wit ; but there are innumerable agreements of things 
which cannot eft ape the notice of the lowed underflanding ; fuch 
as agreements in colour, magnitude, figure, features, time, place, 
age, and fo forth. Thefe agreements are the foundation of fo many 
common attributes, which are found in the rudeft languages. 

The ancient Philofophers called thefe univerfals, or predicables, 
and endeavoured to reduce them to five clafles ; to wit, genus, fpe- 
cies, fpecific difference, properties, and accidents. Perhaps there 
may be more claffes of univerfals or attributes, for enumerations, 
fo very general, are feldom complete; but every attribute, common 
to feveral individuals, may be expreffed by a general term, which 
is the fign of a general conception. 

How prone men are to form general conceptions we may fee from 

L 1 1 the 



QHAP. III. ^i^Q i^fe of metaphor, and of the other figures o/ fpeech grounded 
on fimilitude. Similitude is nothing elfe than an agreement of the 
qbjedls compared in one or more attributes ; and if there be no 
attribute common to both, there can be no fimiUtude. 

The fimilitudes and analogies between the various objecfls that 
nature prefents to us, are infinite and inexhauftible. They not 
only pleafe, when difplayed by the Poet or Wit in works of tafte, 
but they are highly ufeful in the ordinary communication of our 
thoughts and fentiments by language. In the rude languages of 
barbarous nations, fimilitudes and analogies fupply the want of 
proper words to exprefs mens fentiments, fo much, that in fuch 
languages there is hardly a fentence without a metaphor ; and if 
we examine the moft copious and polilhed languages, we fhall find 
that a great proportion of the words and phrafes which are account- 
ed the moft proper, may be faid to be the progeny of metaphor. 

As foreigners, who fettle in a nation as their home, come at laft; 
to be incorporated, and lofe the denomination of foreigners, fo 
words and phrafes, at firll borrowed and figurative, by long ufe 
become denizens in the language, and lofe the denomination of fi- 
gures of fpeech. When we fpeak of the extent of knowledge, the 
fteadinefs of virtue, the tendernefs of afFedtion, the perfpicuity of 
expreffion, no man conceives thefe to be metaphorical expreflions ; 
tliey are as proper as any in the language : Yet it appears upon the 
• very face of them, that they muft have been metaphorical in thofe 

who ufed them firft ; and that it is by ufe and prefcription that 
they have loft the denomination of figurative, and acquired a right 
to be confidered as proper words. This obfervation will be found 
to extend to a great part, perhaps the greateft part, of the words 
of the moft perfedl languages : Sometimes the name of an indivi- 
dual is given to a general conception, and thereby the individual in 
a manner generalifed. As.when the Jew Shylock, in Shakespeare, 
fays, A Daniel come to judgment; yea, a Daniel ! In this fpeech, 
a Daniel is an attribute, or an univerfal. The charader of Daniel, 



as a tnan of fingular wifdom, is abflracfled from his perfon, and CHAP. III , 
confidered as capable of being attributed to other perfons. 

Upon the whole, thefe two openations of abftrading and gene- 
raUfing appear common to all men that have underftanding. The 
pradlice of them is, and muft be, familiar to every man that ufes 
language ; but it is one thing to pradlife them, and another to ex- 
plain how they are performed ; as it is one thing to fee, another to 
explain how we fee. The firfl is the province of all men, and is 
the natural and eafy operation of the faculties which God hath gi- 
ven us. The fecond is the province of Philofophers, and though 
a matter of no great difficulty in itfelf, has been much perplexed 
by the ambiguity of words, and dill more by the hypothefes of 

Thus when I confider a billiard ball, its colour is one attribute, 
which I fignify by calling it white ; its figure is another, which is • 
fignified by calling it fpherical ; the firm cohefion of its parts is 
fignified by calling it hard j its recoiling, when it ftrikes a hard bo- 
dy, .is fignified by its being called elaftic ; its origin, as being part 
of the tooth of an elephant, is fignified by calling it ivory ; and 
its ufe by calling it a billiard ball. 

The words, by which each of thofe attributes is fignified, have 
one diftindl meaning, and in this meaning are applicable to many 
individuals. They fignify not any individual thing, but attributes 
common to many individuals ; nor is it beyond the capacity of a 
child to underftand them perfedlly, and to apply them properly to 
every individual in which they are found. 

As it is by analyfing a complex objedl into its feveral attributes 
that we acquire our fimpleft abfl:ra€l conceptions, it may be pro- 
per to compare this analyfis with that which a Chemift makes of a 
compounded body into the ingredients which enter into its com- 
pofition; for although there be fuch an analogy between thefe 

L II 2 two 



CHA P. IIL f^Q operations, that we give to both the name of analyfis or refblu- 
tlon, there is at the fame time fo great a diffimilitude in fome re- 
fpcds, that we may be led into error, by applying to one what be- 
longs to the other. 

It is obvious, that the chemical analyfis is an operation of the 
hand upon matter, by various material inftruments. The analyfis 
we are now explaining is purely an operation of the underfland- 
ing, which requires no material inftrument, nor produces any 
change upon any external thing; we fliall therefore call it the in- 
telledual or mental analyfis. 

In the chemical analyfis, the compound body itfelf is the fubjedl 
analyfed. A fubjecfl fo imperfedlly known, that it may be com- 
pounded of various ingredients, when to our fenfes it appears 
perfectly fimple ; and even when we are able to analyfe it into the 
different ingredients of which it is compofed, we know not how 
or why the combination of thofe ingredients produces fuch a body. 

Thus pure fea-falt is a body, to appearance, as fimple as any in 
nature. Every the leafl: particle of it, difcernible by our fenfes, 
is perfe<5lly firailar to every other particle in all its qualities. The 
niceft tafle, the quickefl eye, can difcern no mark of its being 
made up of different ingredients ; yet, by the chemical art, it can 
be analyfed into an acid and- an alkali, and can be again produced 
by the combination of thofe two ingredients. But how this com- 
bination produces fea-falt, no inan has been able to difcover. The 
ingredients are both as unlike the compound as any bodies we 
know. No man could have gueffed before the thing was known 
that fea-falt is compounded of thofe two ingredients ; no man could 
have gueffed, that the union of thofe two ingredients (hould pro- 
duce fuch a compound as fea-falt. Such in many cafes are the 
phaenomena of the chemical analyfis of a compound body. 

If we confider the intelle(flual analyfis. of an objedl, it is evident 



that nothing of this kind can happen ; becaufe the thing analyfed 
is not an external objedl imperfedlly known ; it is a conception of 
the mind itfelf. And to fuppofe that there can be any thing in a 
conception that is not conceived, is a contradidlion. 

The reafon of obferving this difference between thofe two kinds 
of analyfis is, that fome Philofophers, in order to fupport their 
fyftems, have maintained, that a complex idea may have the appear- 
ranee of the moft perfedl fimplicity, and retain no fimilitude of 
any of the fimple ideas of which it is compounded ; juft as a white 
colour may appear perfedlly fimple, and retain no fimilitude to any 
of the feven primary colours of which it is compounded ; or as a 
chemical compofition may appear perfedlly fimple, and retain no 
fimilitude to any of the ingredients. 

From which thofe Philofophers have drawn this important con- 
clufion, that a clufter of the ideas of fenfe, properly combined, 
may make the idea of a mind ; and that all the ideas, which Mr 
Locke calls ideas of reflecflion, are only compofitions of the ideas 
which we have by our five fenfes. From this the tranfition is eafy, 
that if a proper compofition of the ideas of matter may make the 
idea of a mind, then a proper compofition of matter itfelf may 
make a mind, and that man is only a piece of matter curioufly 

In this curious fyftem, the whole fabric refts upon this founda- 
tion, that a complex idea, which is made up of various fimple • 
ideas, may appear to be perfectly fimple, and to have no marks of 
compofition, becaufe a compound body may appear to our fenfes 
to be perfe(5lly fimple. 

Upon this fundamental propofition of this fyftem I beg leave to > 
make two remarks. 

1, Suppofing it to be true, it affirms only what may be. We are 


454 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP. III. i,iJee(i in mofl cafes very imperfe(5l judges of what may be. But 
this we know, that were we ever fo certain that a thing may be, 
this is no good reafon for beUeving that it really is. A may be is a 
mere hypothefis, which may furnifh matter of invefligation, but 
is not entitled to the leaft degree of belief The tranfition from what 
-may be to what really is, is familiar and eafy to thofe who have a 
predile(5tion for a hypothefis ; but to a man who feeks truth with- 
out prejudice or prepofleffion, it is a very wide and difficult ftep, 
and he will never pafs from the one to the other, without evidence 
not only that the thing may be, but that it really is. 

2. As far as I am able to judge, this, which it is faid may be, 
cannot be. That a complex idea fliould be made up of limple 
ideas ; fo that to a ripe underflanding refledling upon that idea, 
there fhould be no appearance of compofition, nothing fimilar to 
the fimple ideas of which it is compounded, feems to me to in- 
volve a contradiction. The idea is a conception of the mind. If 
any thing more than this is meant by the idea, I know not what it 
is ; and I wifh both to know what it is, and to have proof of its 
exiftence. Now that there fliould be any thing in the conception 
of an obje<fl which is not conceived, appears to me as manifeft a 
contradidlion, as that there fhould be an exiftence which does not 
•exifl, or that a thing fliould be conceived, and not conceived at 
the fame time. 

But, fay thefe Philofophers, a white colour is produced by the 
compofition of the primary colours, and yet has no refemblance to 
' any of them. I grant it. But what can be inferred from this with 
regard to the compofition of ideas ? To bring this argument home 
to the point, they muft fay, that becaufe a white colour is com- 
pounded of the primary colours, therefore the idea of a white co- 
lour is compounded of the ideas of the primary colours. This 
reafoning, if it was admitted, would lead to innumerable abfur- 
dities. An opaque fluid may be compounded of two or more pel- 
lucid fluids. Hence we might infer with equal force, that the idea 



of an opaque fluid may be compounded. of the idea of two or more CHAP. iir. 
pellucid fluids. 

Nature's way of compounding bodies, and our way of com- 
pounding ideas, are fo different in many refpedls, that we cannot 
reafon from the one to the other, unlefs it can be found that ideas 
are combined by fermentations and elective atcradlions, and may 
be analyfed in a furnace by the force of fire and of menftruums. 
Until this difcovery be made, we mufl hold thofe to be Ample ideas, 
which, upon the moft attentive refledlion, have no appearance of 
compofition ; and thofe only the ingredients of complex ideas, 
which, by attentive reflexion,, can be perceived to be contained 
in them. 

If the idea of mind, and its operations, may be compounded of 
the ideas of matter and its qualities, why may not the idea of mat- 
ter be compounded of the ideas of mind ? There is the fame evi- 
dence for the laft may be as for the firft. And why may not the 
idea of found be compounded of the ideas of colour; or the idea 
of colour of thofe of found ? Why may not the idea of wifdom 
be compounded of ideas of folly; or the idea of truth of ideas of 
abfurdity ? But we leave thefe myfterious may bes to them, that: 
have faith to receive them. 


Of general Conceptioni formed by Combination. 

AS, by an intellectual analyfis of objedls, we form general con- 
ceptions of fingle attributes, (which of all conceptions that 
enter into the human mind are the mofl Ample), fo, by combining 
feveral of thefe into one parcel, and giving a name to that com- 
bination, we form general conceptions that may be very complex,, 
and at the fame time very diftincfl. 


450 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP. IV. Thus one, who, by analyling extended objedls, has got the fimplc 
notions of a-point, a line, ilraight or curve, an angle, a furt'ace, a 
folid, can eafily conceive a plain furface, terminated by four equal 
ftraight lines meeting in four jwints at right angles. To this fpe- 
cies of figure he gives the name of a fquare. In like manner, be 
can conceive a folid terminated by fix equal fquares, and give it 
the name of a cube. A fquare, a cube, and every mme of mathe- 
matical figure, is a general term, exprefling a complex general 
•conception, made by a certain combination of the fimple elements 
into which we analyfe extended bodies. 

Every mathematical figure is accurately defined, by enumerating 
'the fimple elements of which it is formed, and the manner of 
their combination. The definition contains the whole effence of 
it : And every property that belongs to it may be deduced by de- 
monftrative reafoning from its definition. It is not a thing that 
exifls, for then it would be an. individual ; but it is a thing that 
is conceived without regard to exiftence. 

A farm, a manor, a pariflai, a county, a kingdom, are complex 
general conceptions, formed by various combinations and modifica- 
tions of inhabited territory, under certain forms of government. 

Different combinations of military men form the notions of a 
company, a regiment, an army. 

The feveral crimes which are the objects of criminal law, fuch 
as theft, murder,, robbery, piracy, what are they but certain com- 
binations of human adlions and intentions, which are accurately 
defined in criminal law, and which it is found convenient to com- 
prehend under one name, and confider as one thing ? 

When we obfcrve, that Nature, in her animal, vegetable, and 
inanimate produclions, has formed many individuals that agree 
in many of their qualities and attributes, we are led by natural 



inftirKH: to expe6t their agreement in other qualities, which we CHAP. iv. 
have not had occafion to perceive. Thus, a child who has once 
burnt his finger, by putting- it in the flame of one candle, expeds 
the fame event if he puts it in the flame of another candle, or in 
any flame, and is thereby led to think that the quality of burning 
belongs to all flame. This inftindlive indu(5tion is not jufl:ified 
by the rules of logic, and it fometimes leads men into harmlefs 
miftakes, which experience may afterwards corredl ; but it pre- 
ferves us from deftru(5lion in innumerable dangers to which we 
are expofed. 

The reafon of taking notice of this principle in human nature 
in this place is, that the difl:ribution of the productions of Nature 
into genera znd jpecies becomes, on account of this principle, more 
generally ufeful. 

The Phyfician expeds, that the rhubarb which has never yet^ 
been tried will have like medical virtues with that which he has 
prefcribed on former occafions. Two parcels of rhubarb agree 
in certain fenfible qualities, from which agreement they are both 
called by the fame general name rhubarb. Therefore it is expected 
that they will agree in their medical virtues. And as experience 
has difcovered certain virtues in one parcel, or in many parcels, we 
prefume, without experience, that the fame virtues belong to all 
parcels of rhubarb that ihall be ufed. 

If a traveller meets a horfe, an ox, or a flieep, which he never 
faw before, he is under no appreheafion, believing thefe animals 
to be of a fpecies that is tame and inoffenfive. But he dreads a 
lion or a tyger, becaufe they are of a fierce and ravenous fpecies. 

We are capable of receiving innumerable advantages, and arc 
expofed to innumerable dangers, from the va'-ious productions of 
Nature, animal, vegetable, and inanimate. The life of man, if 
an hundred times longer than it is, would be infufEcient to learn. 

M m m fromi 

458 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP, iv^ from experience the ufeful and hurtful qualities of every individual 
produ(5lion of Nature taken fingly. 

The Author of Nature hath made provifion for our attaining 
that knowledge of his works which is necefTary for our fubfiftence 
and prefervation, partly by the conftitution of the produdlions of 
Nature, and partly by the conftitution of the human mind. 

Yox firji^ In the produ(5lions of Nature, great numbers of indi- 
viduals are made fo like to one another, both in their obvious and 
in their more occult qualities, that we are not only enabled, but 
invited, as it were, to reduce them into clafTes, and to give a ge- 
neral name to a clafs ; a name which is common to every indivi- 
dual of the clafs, becaufe it comprehends in its fignification thofe 
qualities or attributes only that are common to all the individuals 
of that clafa. 

Secondly, The human mind is fb framed, that, from the agree- 
ment of individuals in the more obvious qualities by which we 
reduce them into one clafs, we are naturally led to expedl that 
they will be found to agree in their more latent qualities, and in 
tlais we are feldom difappointed. 

We have, therefore, a flrong and rational inducement, both to 
dlflribute natural fubflances into clafTes, genera and fpeciesy under 
general names ; and to do this with all the accuracy and diftindl- 
nefs we are able. For the more accurate our divifions are made, 
and the more difllndlly the feveral fpecies are defined, the more 
fecurely we may rely, that the qualities we find in one or in a few 
individuals will be found in all of the fame fpecies. 

Every fpecies of natural fubftances which has a name in lan- 
guage, is an attribute of many individuals, and is itfelf a com- 
bination of more fimple attributes, which we obferve to be com- 
aion to thofe individuals. 



We fhall find a great part of the words of every language, nay, 
I apprehend, the far greater part, to fignify combinations of more 
fimple general conceptions, which men have found proper to be 
bound up, as it were, in one parcel, by being defigned by one name. 


Some general conceptions there are, which may more properly 
be called compofitions or ivorks than mere combinations. Thus, one 
may conceive a machine which never exilled. He may conceive 
an air in mufic, a poem, a plan of archite(5lure, a plan of govern- 
ment, a plan of condudl in public or in private life, a fentence, 
a difcourfe, a treatife. Such compofitions are things conceived 
in the mind of the author, not individuals that really exift ; and 
the fame general conception which the author had may be com- 
municated to others by language. 

Thus, the Oceana of Harrington was conceived in the mind 
of its author. The materials of which it is compofed are things 
conceived, not things that exifted. His fenate, his popular affem- 
bly, his magiftrates, his eledlions, are all conceptions of his mind, 
and the whole is one complex conception. And the fame may be 
faid of every work of the human, underftanding. 

Very different from thefe are the works of God, which we behold. 
They are works of creative power, not of underflanding only.. 
They have a real exiftence. Our bed conceptions of them are 
partial and imperfed. But of the works of the human under- 
Handing our conception may be perfedl and complete. They are 
nothing but what the author conceived, and what he can exprefs 
by language, fo as. to convey his conception perfedly to men like 

Although fuch works are indeed complex general conceptions,, 
they do not fo properly belong to our prefent fubjed. They are 
more the objeds of judgment and of tafte, than of bare conception 
or firaple apprehenfion. 

M m. m 2 ' To> 



4K5o E S S A Y V. 

CHAP. IV. To return therefore to. thofe complex conceptions which are 
formed merely by combining thofe that are more fimple. Nature 
has given us the power of combining fuch fimple attributes, and 
fuch a number of them as we find proper ; and of giving one name 
to that combination, and confidering it as one objedl of thought. 

The fimple attributes of things, which fall under our obferva- 
tion, are not fo numerous but that they may all have names in a 
-copious language. But to give names to all the combinations that 
can be made of two, three, or more of them, would be impoffible. 
The rnoft copious languages have names but for a very fmall part. 

It may likewife be obferved, that the combinations that have 
names are nearly, though not perfectly, the fame in the different 
languages of civilized nations, that have intercourfe with one ano- 
ther. Hence it is, that the Lexicographer, for the mod part, can 
give words in one language anfwering perfe<fHy, or very nearly, to 
thofe of another ; and what is wrote in a fimple ftyle in one lan- 
guage, can be tranflated almofl: word for word into another. 

From thefe obfervations we may conclude, that there are either 
certain common principles of human nature, or certain common 
occurrences of human life, which difpofe men, out of an infinite 
number that might be formed, to form certain combinations ra- 
ther than others. 

Mr Hume, in order to account for this phaenomenon, has re- 
courfe to what he calls the afTociating qualities of ideas ; to wit, 
caufation, contiguity in time, and place, and fimllitude. He con- 
ceives, " that one of the moft remarkable effedls of thofe afifocia- 
" ting qualities, is the complex ideas which are the common fub- 
*' je6ls of our thoughts. That this alfo is the caufe why languages 
*' fo nearly correfpond to one another. Nature in a manner point- 
" ing out to every one thofe ideas which are moft proper to be 
■" united into a complex one." 



I agree with this ingenious author, that Nature in a manner CHAP. IV. 
points out thofe fimple ideas which are mofl proper to be united 
into a complex one: But Nature does this, not folely or chiefly by 
the relations between the fimple ideas, of contiguity, caufation, 
and refemblance ; but rather by the fitnefs of the combinations 
we make, to aid our own conceptions, and to convey them to others 
by language eafily and agreeably. 

The end and ufe of language, without regard to the aflociating 
qualities of ideas, will lead men that have common underftand- 
ing to form fuch complex notions as are proper for exprefTmg their 
wants, their thoughts, and their defires : And in every language 
we fhall find thefe to be the complex notions that have names. 

In the rudeft ftate of fociety, men muft have occafion to form 
the general notions of man, woman, father, mother, fon, daugh- 
ter, fifler, brother, neighbour, friend, enemy, and many others, 
to exprefs the common relations of one perfon to another. 

If they are employed in hunting, they muft have general terms 
to exprefs the various implements and operations of the chace. 
Their houfes and clothing, however fimple, will furnifli another 
fet of general terms, to exprefs the materials, the workmanfhip, 
and the excellencies and defedls of thofe fabrics. If they fail up- 
on rivers, or upon the fea, this will give occafion to a great num- 
ber of general terms, which otherwife would never have occurred 
to their thoughts. 

The fame thing may be faid of agriculture, of pafturage, of 
every art they pra<5life, and of every branch of knowledge they 
attain. The neceffity of general terms for communicating our 
fentiments is obvious ; and the invention of them, as far as we 
find them neceflTary, requires no other talent but that degree of un- 
derftanding which is common to men. 


462 E S S A Y V. 

CHA P, iv^ The notions of debtor and creditor, of profit and lofs, of ac- 
count, balance, flock on hand, and many others, are owing to 
commerce. The notions of latitude, longitude, courfe, diftance 
run J and thofe of ihips, and of their various parts, furniture and 
operations, are owing to navigation. The Anatomifl muft have 
names, for the various limilar and diffimilar parts of the human 
body, and words, to exprefs their figure, pofition, ftrudlure, and 
ufe. The Phyfician muft have names for the various difeafes of 
the body, their caufes, fymptoms, and means of cure. 

Tlie like may be faid of the Grammarian, the Logician, the 
Critic, the Rhetorician, the Morallft, the Naturalift, the Mechanic, 
and every man that profeffes any art or fcience. 

When any difcovery is made in art or in nature, which requires 
new combinations and new words to exprefs it properly, the in- 
vention of thefe is eafy to thofe who have a diftinft notion of the 
thing to be exprefled j and fuch words will readily be adopted, and 
receive the public fancSlion. 

If, on the other hand, any man of eminence, through vanity 
er want of -judgment, fhould invent new words, to exprefs com- 
binations that have neither beauty nor utility, or which may as 
well be expreffed in the current language, his authority may give 
them currency for a time with fervile imitators, or blind admirers : 
But the judicious will laugh at them, and they will foon lofe their 
credit. So true was the obfervation made by Pomponius Mar- 
CELLUS, an ancient Grammarian, to Tiberius C-esar. " You, 
** CjESAR, have power to make a man a denizen of Rome, but 
" not to make a word a denizen of the Roman language." 

Among nations that are civilized, and have intercourfe with one 
another, the moft neceflary and ufeful arts will be common ; the 
important parts of human knowledge will be common ; their fe* 
veral languages will be fitted to it, and confequently to one another. 



New inventions of general ufe give an eafy birth to new com- F^^J*' ^\ ' 
plex notions and new names, which fpread as far as the invention 
does. How many new complex notions have been formed, and 
names for them invented in the languages of Europe, by the mo- 
dern inventions of printing, of gunpowder, of the mariner's 
compafs, of optical glaffes ? The fimple ideas combined in thofe 
complex notions, and the afTociating qualities of thofe ideas, are 
very ancient ; but they never produced thofe complex notions un- 
til there was ufe for them. 

What is peculiar to a nation in its cuftoms, manners, or laws, 
will give occafion to complex notions and words peculiar to the lan- 
guage of that nation. Hence it is eafy to fee, why an impeach- 
ment, and an attainder, in the Englifli language, and oftracifm in 
the Greek language, have not names anfwering to them in other 

I apprehend, therefore, that it is utility, and not the aflbciating 
qualities of the ideas, that has led men to form only certain com- 
binations, and to give names to them in language, while they ne- 
gle<5t an infinite number that might be formed. 

The common occurrences of life, in the intercourfe of men, 
and in their occupations, give occafion to many complex notions. 
We fee an individual occurrence, which draws our attention more 
or lefs, and may be a fubjedl of converfation. Other occurrences, 
fimilar to this in many refpeds, have been obferved, or may be 
expecEled. It is convenient that we Ihould be able to fpeak of what 
is common to them all, leaving out the unimportant circumftances 
of time, place, and perfons. This we can do with great eafe, by 
giving a name to what is common to all thofe individual occurren- 
ces. Such a name is a great aid to language, becaufe it compre- 
hends, in one word, a great number of fimple notions, which it 
would be very tedious to exprefs in detail. 


464 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP. IV . Thus men have formed the complex notions of eating, drink- 
ing, fleeping, walking, riding, running, buying, felling, plowing^ 
fowing, a dance, a feafl:, war, a battle, vi(5lory, triumph ; and 
others without number. 

Such things mud frequently be the fubjedl of converfation ; and 
if we had not a more compendious way of expreffing them than 
by a detail of all the fimple notions they comprehend, we fhould 
lofe the benefit of fpeech. 

The different talents, difpofitions, and habits of men in fociety, 
being interefting to thofe who have to do with them, will in every 
language have general names ; fuch as wife, foolifli, knowing, ig- 
norant, plain, cunning. In every operative art, the tools, inftru- 
ments, materials, the work produced, and the various excellencies 
and defedls of thefe, muft have general names. 

The various relations of perfons, and of things which cannot 
efcape the obfervation of men in fociety, lead us to many complex 
general notions ; fuch as father, brother, friend, enemy, mafter, 
fervant, property, theft, rebellion. 

The terms of art in the fciences make another clafs of general 
names of complex notions ; as In mathematics, axiom, definition, 
problem, theorem, demonftration. 

I do not attempt a complete enumeration even of the claffes of 
complex general conceptions. Thofe I have named as a fpeclmen, 
I think, are moftly comprehended under what Mr Locke calls 
mixed modes and relations ; which, he juftly obferves, have names 
given them in language, in preference to innumerable others that 
might be formed ; for this reafon only, that they are ufeful for the 
purpofe of communicating our thoughts by language. 

In all the languages of mankind, not only the writings and dif- 



courfes of the learned, but the converfation of the vulgar, is al- CHAP. iv. 
moft entirely made up of general words, which are the figns of 
general conceptions, either fimple or complex. And in every lan- 
guage, we find the terms fignifying complex notions to be fuch, 
and only fuch, as the ufe of language requires. 

There remains a very large clafs of complex general terms, on 
which I (hall make fome obfervations ; I mean thofe by which we 
name the fpecies, genera, and tribes of natural fubftances. 

It is utility, indeed, that leads us to give general names to the 
various fpecies of natural fubftances ; but, in combining the attri- 
butes which are included under the fpecific name, we are jnore 
aided and dire(fled by Nature, than in forming other combinations 
of mixed modes and relations. In the laft, the ingredients are 
brought together in the occurrences of life, or in the adlions or 
thoughts of men. But, in the firft, the ingredients are united by 
nature in many individual fubftances which God has made. We 
form a general notion of thofe attributes, wherein many indivi- 
duals agree. We give a fpecific name to this combination ; which 
name is common to all fubftances having thofe attributes, which 
either do or may exift. The fpecific name comprehends neither 
more nor fewer attributes than we find proper to put into its defi- 
nition. It comprehends not time, nor place, nor even exiftence, 
although there can be no individual without thefe. 

This work of the underftanding is abfolutely neceflary for fpeak- 
ing intelligibly of the produ(5lions of Nature, and for reaping the 
benefits we receive, and avoiding the dangers we are expofed to 
from them. The individuals are fo many, that to give a proper 
name to each would be beyond the power of language. If a good 
or bad quality was obferved in an individual, of how fmall ufe 
would this be, if there was not a fpecies in which the fame qua- 
lity might be expected ? 

N n n Without 

466 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP. IV. Without fome general knowledge of the qualities of natural fub- 
ftances, human life could not be preferved. And there can be 
no general knowledge of this kind, without reducing them to fpe- 
cies under fpecific names. For this reafon, among the rudefl na- 
tions, we find names for fire, water, earth, air, mountains, foun- 
tains, rivers ; for the kinds of vegetables they ufe ; of animals they 
hunt or tame, or that are found ufcful or hurtful. 

Each of thofe names fignifies in general a fubflance having a 
certain combination of attributes. The name therefore mufl be 
common to all fubftances in which thofe attributes are found. 

Such general names of fubftances being found in all vulgar lan- 
guages, before Philofophers began to make accurate divifions, and 
lefs obvious difti nations, it is not to be expedled that their mean- 
ing fhould be more precife than is necefTary for the common pur- 
pofes of life. 

As the knowledge of Nature advances, more fpecies of natural 
fubftances are obferved, and their ufeful qualities difcovered. In 
order that this important part of human knowledge may be com- 
municated, and handed down to future generations, it is not fuffi- 
cient that the fpecies have names. Such is the fludluating ftate of 
language, that a general name will not always retain the fame pre- 
cife fignification, unlefs it have a definition in which men are dif- 
pofed to acquiefce. 

There was undoubtedly a great fund of natural knowledge 
among the Greeks and Romans in the time of Pliny. There is 
a great fund in his natural hiftory ; but much of it is loft to us, 
for this reafon among others, that we know not what fpecies of 
fubftance he means by fuch a name. 

Nothing could have prevented this lofs but an accurate definition 
of the name, by which the fpecies might have been dlftinguilhed 
. from all others, as long as that name and its definition remained. 



To prevent fuch lofs in future times, modern Philofophers have CHAP. IV . 
very laudably attempted to give names and accurate definitions of 
all the known fpecies of fubftances, wherewith the bountiful 
Creator hath enriched our globe. 

This is necefTary, in order to form a copious and diftindl lan- 
guage concerning them, and confequently to facilitate our know- 
ledge of them, and to convey it to future generations. 

Every fpecies that is known to exift ought to have a name ; and. 
that name ought to be defined by fuch attributes as ferve beft to 
diftinguifh the fpecies from all others. 

Nature invites to this work, by having formed things fo as to 
make it both eafy and important. 

For, Jirjl^ We perceive numbers of individual fubftances fo like 
in their obvious qualities, that the moft unimproved tribes of men 
confider them as of one fpecies, and give th^m one common name. 

Secondly, The more latent qualities of fubftances are generally 
the fame in all the individuals of a fpecies : So that what, by ob- 
fervation or experiment, is found in a few individuals of a fpecies, 
is prefumed, and commonly found to belong to the whole. By 
this we are enabled, from particular fadls, to draw general conclu- 
fions. This kind of induction is indeed the mafter-key to the 
knowledge of Nature, without which we could form no general 
conclufions in that branch of philofophy. 

And, thirdly. By the very conftitution of our nature, we are 
led, without reafoning, to afcribe to the whole fpecies what we 
have found to belong to the individuals. It is thus we come to 
know that fire burns, and water drowns \ that bodies gravitate, 
and bread nourifhes. 

N n n 2 The 

468 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP. IV. 'j'lie fpecies of two of the kingdoms of Nature, to wit, the ani- 
mal and the vegetable, feem to be fixed by Nature, by the power 
they have of producing their like. And in thefe, men in all ages 
and nations have accounted the parent and the progeny of the fame 
fpecies. The differences among Naturalifls, with regard to the 
fpecies of thefe two kingdoms, are very inconfiderable, and may be 
occafioned by the changes produced by foil, climate, and culture, 
and fometimes by monflrous produdions, which are compara- 
tively rare. 

In the inanimate kingdom we have not the fame means of divid- 
ing things into fpecies, and therefore the limits of fpecies feem to 
be more arbitrary : But from the progrefs already made, there is 
ground to hope, that even in this kingdom, as the knowledge of it 
advances, the various fpecies may be fo well diftinguifhed and de- 
fined as to anfwer every valuable purpofe. 

When the fpecies are fo numerous as to burden the memory, it 
is greatly aflifted by diftributing them into genera ; the genera into 
tribes, the tribes into orders, and the orders into clafles. 

Such a regular diftrlbution of natural fubftances, by divifions 
and fubdivifions,. has got the name of a fyftem. 

It is not a fyftem of truths, but a fyftem of general terms, with 
their definitions ; and it is not only a great help to memory, but 
facilitates very much the definition of the terms. For the defini- 
tion of the genus is common to all the fpecies of that genus, and 
fo is underftood in the definition of each fpecies, without the trouble 
of repetition. In like manner, the definition of a tribe is under- 
ftood in the definition of every genus, and every fpecies of that 
tribe ; and the fame may be faid of every fuperior divifion. 

The effe(5l of fuch a fyftematical diftribution of the produdions 
of Nature, is feen in our fyftems of zoology, botany, and mine- 
ralogy ; 


ralogy ; in which a fpecies is commonly defined accurately in a line p^AP. iv . 
or two, which, without the fyftematical arrangement, could hardly 
be defined in a page. 

With regard to the utility of fyftems of this kind, men have 
gone into contrary extremes ; fome have treated them with con- 
tempt, as a mere didlionary of words; others, perhaps, reft in fuch 
fyftems, as all that is worth knowing in the works of Nature. 

On the one hand, it is not the intention of fuch fyftems to com- 
municate all that is known of the natural produdions which they 
defcribe. The properties moft fit for defining and diftinguifliing 
the feveral fpecies, are not always thofe that are moft ufeful to be 
known. To difcover and to communicate the ufes of natural fub- 
ftances in life, and in the arts, is no doubt that part of the bufinefs 
of a Nacuralift which is the moft important; and the fyftematical 
arrangement of them is chiefly to be valued for its fubferviency to 
this end. This every judicious Naturalift will grant. • 

But, on the other hand, the labour is not to be defpifed, by which 
the road to an ufeful and important branch of knowledge is made 
eafy in all time to come ; efpecially when this labour requires both 
extenfive knowledge and great abilities. 

The talent of arranging properly, and defining accurately, is fo 
rare^ and at the fame time fo ufeful, that it may very juftly be 
confidered as a proof of real genius, and as entitled to a high degree 
of praife. There is an intrinfic beauty in arrangement, which cap- 
tivates the mind, and gives pleafure, even abftradling from its uti- 
lity ; as in moft other things, fo in this particularly. Nature has 
joined beauty with utility. The arrangement of an army in the 
day of battle is a grand fpedlacle. The fame men crowded in a 
fair, have no fuch effetfl. It is not more ftrange therefore that fome 
men fpend their days in ftudying fyftems of Nature, than that 
other men employ their lives in the ftudy of languages. The moft 




CHAP. rv. important end of thofe fyftems, furely is to form a copious and an 
unambiguous language concerning the produ<5lions of Nature, by 
which every ufeful difcovery concerning them may be communi- 
cated to the prefent, and tranfmitted to all future generations, 
without danger of miftake. 

General terms, efpecially fuch as are complex in their fignifica- 
tion, will never keep one precife meaning without accurate defini- 
tion; and accurate definitions of fuch terms can in no way be 
formed fo eafily and advantageoufly, as by reducing the things they 
fignify into a regular fyftem. 

Very eminent men in the medical profefTion, in order to remove 
all ambiguity in the names of difeafes, and to advance the healing 
art, have of late attempted to reduce into a fyflematical order the 
difeafes of the human body, and to give diflin(5l names, and accu- 
rate definitions, of the feveral fpecies, genera^ orders, and clafTes, 
into which they diflribute them j and I apprehend, that in every 
art and fcience, where the terms of the art have any ambiguity 
that obftrudls its progrefs, this method will be found the eafieft 
and moft fuccefsful for the remedy of that evil. 

It were even to be wilhed, that the general terms which we find 
in common language, as well as thofe of the arts and fciences, 
could be reduced to a fyflematical arrangement, and defined fo as 
that they might be free from ambiguity ; but perhaps the obftacles 
to this are infurmountable. I know no man who has attempted 
it but Bifliop WiLKiNS in his Effay towards a real charadler and 
a philofophical language. The attempt was grand, and w^orthy 
of a man of genius. 

The formation of fuch fyflems, therefore, of the various pro- 
dudions of Nature, inflead of being defpifed, ought to be ranked 
among the valuable improvements of modern ages, and to be the 
more efteemed that its utility reaches to the moft diftant future 



times, and, like the invention of writing, ferves to embalm a moft ^^^^' ^X ' 
important branch of human knowledge, and to preferve it from be- 
ing corrupted or loft. 


Obfervatlons concerning the Names given to our general Notions. 

HAVING now explained, as well as I am able, thofe operations 
of the mind by which we analyfe the obje(5ls which Nature 
prefents to our obfervation, into their flmple attributes, giving a 
general name to each, and by which we combine any number of 
fuch attributes into one whole, and give a general name to that 
combination, I Ihall offer fome obfervations relating to our gene- 
ral notions, whether fimple or complex. 

I apprehend that the names given to them by modern Philofo- 
phers have contributed to darken our fpeculations about them, 
and to render them difficult and abftrufe. 

"We call them general notions, conceptions, ideas. The words 
notion and conception, in their proper and moft common fenfe, 
fignify the a<5l or operation of the mind in conceiving an objedt. 
In a figurative fenfe, they are fometimes put for the objedl con- 
ceived. And I think they are rarely, if ever, ufed in this figurative 
fenfe, except when we fpeak of what we call general notions or 
general conceptions. The word idea, as it is ufed in modern timps, 
has the fame ambiguity. 

Now, it is only In the laft of thefe fenfes, and not in the firft, 
that we can be faid to have general notions or conceptions. 
The generality is in the objedl conceived, and not in the adl of 
the mind by which it is conceived. Every adl of the mind is an 
individual a(5^, which does or did exift. But we have power to 


472 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP. V. conceive things which neither do nor ever did exift. We have 
power to conceive attributes without regard to their exiftence. The 
conception of fuch an attribute is a real and individual a<5l of the 
mind ; but the attribute conceived is common to many indivi- 
duals that do or may exift. We are too apt to confound an objedl 
of conception with the conception of that objedt. But the dan- 
ger of doing this muft be much greater when the obje(5l of con- 
ception is called a conception. 

The Peripatetics gave to fuch objedls of conception the names 
of unlverfals, and of predicables. Thofe names had no ambiguity, 
and I think were much more fit to exprefs what was meant by 
them than the names we ufe. 

It is for this reafon that I have fo often ufed the word attribute, 
which has the fame meaning with predicable. And for the fame 
reafon, I have thought it neceffary repeatedly to warn the reader, 
that when, in compliance with cuftom, I fpeak of general notions or 
general conceptions, I always mean things conceived, and not the 
a(5l of the mind in conceiving them. 

The Pythagoreans and Piatonifts gave the name of ideas to fuch 
general objefls of conception, and to nothing elfe. As we bor- 
rowed the word idea from them, fo that it is now familiar in all 
the languages of Europe, I think it would have been happy if we 
had alfo borrowed their meaning, and had ufed it only to fignify 
what they meant by it. I apprehend we want an unambiguous 
word to diftinguifh things barely conceived from things that exift. 
If the word idea was ufed for this purpofe only, it would be re- 
ftored to its original meaning, and fupply tliat want. 

We may furely agree with the Platonifts in the meaning of the 
word idea^ without adopting their theory concerning ideas. We need 
not believe, with them, that ideas are eternal and felf-exiftent, and 
that they have a more real exiftence than the things we fee and feel. 



They were led to give exiftence to ideas, from the common pre- chap. V . 
judice that every thing which is an objedl of conception muft 
really exift ; and having once given exiflence to ideas, the reft of 
their myfterious fyftem about ideas followed of courfe ; for things 
merely conceived, have neither beginning nor end, time nor place; 
they are fubjedl to no change ; they are the patterns and exemplars 
according to which the Deity made every thing that he made ; for 
the work muft be conceived by the artificer before it is made. 

Thefe are undeniable attributes of the»ideas of Plato, and if 
we add to them that of real exiftence, we have-the whole myfteri- 
ous fyftem of Platonic ideas. Take away the attribute of exiftence, 
and fuppofe them not to be things that exift, but things that are 
barely conceived, and all the myftery is removed; all that remains 
is level to the human underftanding. 

The word ejfence came to be much ufed among the fchoolmen, 
and what the Platonifts called the idea of a fpecies, they called its 
effence. The word ejfentia is faid to have been made by Cicero ; 
but even his authority could not give it currency, until long after 
his time. It came at laft to be ufed, and the fchoolmen fell into 
much the fame opinions concerning eifences, as the Platonifts held 
concerning ideas. The effences of things were held to be uncreated, 
eternal, and immutable. 

Mr Locke diftinguiflies two kinds of eflence, the real and the 
nominal. By the real effence he means the conftitution of an in- 
dividual, which makes it to be what it is. This eflence muft be- 
gin and end with the individual to which it belongs. It is not 
therefore a Platonic idea. But what Mr Locke calls the nominal 
eflence, is the conftitution of a fpecies, or that which makes an in- 
dividual to be of fuch a fpecies; and this is nothing but that com- 
bination of attributes which is fignified by the name of the fpecies, 
and which we conceive without regard to exiftence. 

O o o The 



CHAP, v,^ The eflence of a fpecies therefore, is what the Platonifts called 
the idea of the fpecies. 

If the word idea be reftrldted to the meaning which it bore among 
the Platonifts and Pythagoreans, many things which Mr liOCKE has 
faid with regard to ideas will be juft and true, and others will not. 

It will be true, that moft words, (indeed all general words,) are 
the figns of ideas ; but proper names are not ; they fignify indivi- 
dual things, and not ideas. It will be true not only that there are 
general and abftradl ideas, but that all ideas are general and ab- 
ftradl. It will be fo far from the truth, that all our fimple ideas 
are got immediately, either from fenfation, or from confcioufnefs ; 
that no fimple idea is got by either, without the co-operation of 
other powers. The objecfts of fenfe, of memory, and of confciouf- 
nefs, are not ideas but individuals ; they muft be analyfed by the 
underftanding into their finaple ingredients, before we can have 
fimple ideas ; and thofe fimple ideas muft be again combined by 
the underftanding, in diftinft parcels with names annexed, in order 
to give us complex ideas : It will be probable not only that brutes 
have no abftradl ideas, but that they have no ideas at all. 

I fhall only add, that the learned author of the origin and pro- 
grefs of language, and perhaps his learned friend Mr Harris, are 
the only modern authors I have met with, who reftridl the word 
idea to this meaning. Their acquaintance with ancient philofophy 
led them to this. What pity is it that a word, which in ancient 
philofophy had a diftinft meaning, and which, if kept to that 
meaning, would have been a real acquifition to our language, fhould 
be ufed by the moderns in fo vague and ambiguous a manner, 
that it is more apt to perplex and darken our fpeculations, than to 
convey ufeful knowledge. 

From all that has been faid about abftradl and general con- 
ceptions, I think we may draw the following condufions concern- 
ing them. 



Firji, That it is by abfl:ra(5tlon that the mind is furniflied with CHAP. v. 
all its moft fimple, and moil diftindl notions : The fimpleft objedls 
of fenfe appear both complex and indiftincfl:, until hy abftra<5lion 
they are analyfed into their more fimple elements ; and the fame 
may be faid of the objecfls of memory and of confcioufuefs. 

Secondly, Our moft diftindl complex notions are thofe that are 
formed by compounding the fimple notions got by abflradion. 

'Thirdly, Without the powers of abflradling and generalifing, it 
would be impoffible to reduce things into any order and method, 
by dividing them into genera and fpecies. 

Fourthly, Without thofe powers there could be no definition ; 
for definition can only be applied to" univerfals, and no indivi- 
dual can be defined. 


Fifthly, Without abftradl and general notions there can neither 
be reafoning nor language. 

Sixthly, As brute animals fliew no figns of being able to diftin- 
guifh the various attributes of the fame fubjedl ; of being able to 
clafs things into genera and fpecies ; to define, to reafon, or to com- 
municate their thoughts by artificial figns, as men do ; I muft think 
with Mr Locke, that they have not the powers of abftrading and 
generalifing ; and that in this particular, Nature has made a fpe- 
cific difference between them and the human fpecies. 

Opinions of Philofophers about Univerfals. 

IN the ancient philofophy, the doctrine of univerfals, that is, of 
things which we exprefs by general terms, makes a great figure. 
The ideas of the Pythagoreans and Platonifts, of which fo much 

O o o 2 has 

47^ E S S A Y V. 


has been already faid, were univcrfals. All fcience is employed 
about univerfals as its object:. It was thought that there can be no 
fcience, unlcfs its obje(5l be fomething real and immutable ; and 
therefore thofe who paid homage to truth and fcience, maintained 
that ideas or univerfals have a real and immutable exiftence. 

The Sceptics, on the contrary, (for there were fceptical Philofo- 
phers in thofe early days) maintained, that all things are mutable, 
and in a perpetual fludluation ; and from this principle inferred, 
that there is no fcience, no truth ; that all is uncertain opinion. 

Plato, and his maflers of the Pythagorean fchool, yielded this 
with regard to objeds of fenfe, and acknowledged that there could 
be no fcience or certain knowledge concerning them : But they 
held, that there are objecSls of intellect of a fuperior order and 
nature, which are permanent and immutable. Thefe are ideas, or 
univerfal natures, of which the objedls of fenfe are only the images 
and fliadows. 

To thefe ideas they afcribed, as I have already obferved, the 
mofl: magnificent attributes. Of man, of a rofe, of a circle, and 
of every fpecies of things, they believed that there is one idea or 
form, which exifted from eternity, before any individual of the 
fpecies was formed : That this idea is the exemplar or pattern, ac- 
cording to which the Deity formed the individuals of the fpecies : 
That every individual of the fpecies participates of this idea, which 
conftitutes its effence ; and that this idea is likewlfe an object of 
the human intelle(5l, when, by due abftradion, we difcern it to be 
one in all the individuals of the fpecies. 

Thus the idea of every fpecies, though one and immutable, 
might be confidered in three different views or refpeds ; firjl, as 
having an eternal exiftence before there was any individual of the 
fpecies ; fecondly^ as exifting in every individual of that fpecies, 
without divifion or multiplication, and making the eflence of the 

fpecies ; 


fpeciesj and, thirdly y as an objed of intelledt and of fclence in ^HAP. vi . 

Such I take to be the do<5lrine of Plato, as far as I am able xs> 
comprehend it. His difciple Aristotle reje<fled the firft of thefe 
views of ideas as vifionary, but differed Httle from his mafter with 
regard to the two lad. He did not admit the exiftence of univer- 
fal natures antecedent to the exiftence of individuals ; but he held, 
that every individual confifls of matter and form : That the form 
(which I take to be what Plato calls the idea) is common to all 
the individuals of the fpecies, and that the human intelledl is fit- 
ted to receive the forms of things as objedls of contemplation. 
Such profound fpeculations about the nature of univerfals, we 
find even in the firft ages of philofophy. I wifh I could make 
them more intelligible to myfelf and to the reader. 

The divifion of univerfals into five clafles ; to wit, genus, fpe- 
cies, fpeclfic difference, properties, and accidents, is likewife very 
ancient, and I conceive was borrowed by the Peripatetics from the 
Pythagorean fchool. 

Porphyry has given us a very diftin(5l treatife upon thefe, as 
an introdu(5lion to Aristotle's categories. But he has omitted 
the intricate metaphyfical queftions that were agitated about their 
nature ; fuch as. Whether genera and fpecies do really cxift in na- 
ture ? Or, Whether they are only conceptions of the human mind? 
If they exift in nature, Whether they are corporeal or incorporeal? 
And whether they are inherent in the obje<5ls of fenfe, or disjoin- 
ed from them ? Thefe queftions he tells us, for brevity's fake, he 
omits, becaufe they are very profound, and require accurate dif- 
cuffion. It is probable, that thefe queftions exercifed the wits of 
the Philofophers till about the twelfth century. 

About that time, RoscELiNas or Ruscelinus, the mafter of 
the famous Abelard, introduced a new dodrine, that there is no- 

478 E S S A Y V. 

CHAF. VL thing unlverfal but words or names. For this, and other herefies, 
he was much perfecuted. However, by his eloquence and abili- 
ties, and thofe of his difciple Abelard, the dodlrine fpread, and 
thofe who followed it were called Nominalifts. His antagonifts, 
who held that there are things that are really imiverfal, were called 
Realifts. The fcholaftic Philofophers, from the beginning of the 
twelfth century, were divided into thefe two fe(5ls. Some few 
took a middle road between the contending parties. That univer- 
fality, which the Realifls held to be in things themfelves, Nomi- 
nalifts in names only, They held to be neither in things nor in 
names only, but in our conceptions. On this account they were 
called Conceptualifts : But being expo fed to the batteries of both 
the oppofite parties, they made no great figure. 

When the fedl of Nominalifts was like to expire, it received new 
life and fpirit from Occam, the difciple of ScOTUS, in the four- 
teenth century. Then the difpute about univerfals, a parte rei, was 
revived with the greateft animofity in the fchools of Britain, 
France, and Germany, and carried on, not by arguments only, 
but by bitter reproaches, blows, and bloody affrays, until the doc- 
trines of Luther and the other Reformers turned the attention of 
the learned world to more important fubjecls. 


After the revival of learning, Mr Hobbes adopted the opinion 
of the Nominalifts. Human nature, chap. 5. fe(5l. 6. " It is plain, 
" therefore, fays he, that there is nothing univerfal but names." 
And in his Leviathan, part i. chap. 4. " There being nothing uni- 
" verfal but names, proper names bring to mind one thing only ; 
" univerfals recal any one of many." 

Mr Locke, according to the divifion before mentioned, I think, 
may be accounted a Conceptualift. He does not maintain that 
there are things that are univerfal ; but that we have general or 
univerfal ideas which we form by abftradlion ; and this power of 
forming abftradl and general ideas, he conceives to be that which 



makes the chief difl:in(5\ion in point of underftanding between CHAP. vi. 
men and brutes. 

Mr Locke's dodlrine about abfl:ra<flion has been combated by 
two very powerful antagonifts, BiQiop Berkeley and Mr Hume, 
who have taken up the opinion of the Nominalifts. The former 
thinks, " That the opinion, that the mind hath a power of form- 
*' ing abflradl ideas, or notions of things, has had a chief part in 
" rendering fpeculation intricate and perplexed, and has occafioned 
" innumerable errors and difficulties in almofl all parts of know- 
" ledge." That " abftradl ideas are like a fine and fubtile net, 
*' which has miferably perplexed and entangled the rfiinds of men, 
" wich this peculiar circumftance, that by how much the finer 
" and more curious was the wit of any man, by fo much the 
" deeper was he like to be enfnared, and fafter held therein." Thatt 
" among all the falfe principles that have, obtained in the world,:i 
" there is none hath a more wide influence over the thoughts of 'i 
*' fpeculative men than this of abfl:ra6l general ideas." 

The good Bifhop therefore, in twenty-four pages of the Intro- 
dudlion to his Principles of Human Knowledge, encounters this 
principle with a zeal proportioned to his apprehenfion of its ma- 
lignant and extenfive influence. 

That the zeal of the fceptical Philofopher againft abflradl ideas 
•was almoft equal to that of the Bifliop, appears from his words, 
Treatife of Human Nature, book i. part 1. fedl. 7. " A very ma- 
" terial queftion has been ftarted concerning abftracl or general 
*' ideas, whether they be general or particular in the mind's con- 
" ception of them ? A great Philofopher (he means Dr Berkeley) 
*' has difputed the received opinion in this particular, and has af- 
" ferted, that all general ideas are nothing but. particular ones an- 
" nexed to a certain term, which gives them a more extenfive fig- 
" nification, and makes them recal upon occafion other individuals 
** w^hich are fimilar to them. As I look upon this to be one of the 

" greatefl 

480 ESSAY V. 

CHAP.vr. « greatefl: and mofl valuable difcoveries that have been made of 

^' " late years in the republic of letters, I fhall here endeavour to 

" confirm it by fome arguments, which I hope will put it beyond 

" all doubt and controverfy." 

I £hall make an end of this fubjed, with fome refle(5lions on 
what has been faid upon it by thefe two eminent Philofophers. 

I. Firjl^ I apprehend that we cannot, with propriety, be faid to 
have abftracfl and general ideas, either in the popular or in the 
philofophical fcnfe of that word. In the popular fenfc an idea is 
a thought ; it is the adl of the mind in thinking, or in conceiving 
any objeft. This a(fl of the mind is always an individual adt, and 
therefore there can be no general idea in this fenfe. In the phi- 
lofophical fenfe, an idea is an image in the mind, or in the brain, 
which in Mr Locke's fyflem is the immediate obje<fl of thought; 
in the fyftem of Berkeley and Hume the only objecl of thought. 
I believe there are no ideas of this kind, and therefore no abftradl 
general ideas. Indeed, if there were really fuch images in the 
mind, or in the brain, they could not be general, becaufe every 
thing that really exifts is an individual. Univerfals are neither 
ads of the mind, nor images in the mind. 

As therefore there are no general ideas in either of the fenfes in 
which the word idea is ufed by the moderns, Berkeley and 
Hume have in this queftion an advantage over Mr Locke ; and 
their arguments againll: him are good ad hominem. They favv far- 
ther than he did into the jufl confequences of the hypothefis con- 
cerning ideas, which was common to them and to him ; and they 
reafoned juftly from this hypothefis, when they concluded from it, 
that there is neither a material world, nor any fuch power in the 
human mind as that of abftradion. 

A triangle, in general, or any other univerfal, might be called 
an idea by a Platonifl: ; but, in the ftyle of modern philofophy, it 



is not an idea, nor do we ever afcribe to ideas the properties of CHAP, vi . 

friangles. It is never faid of any idea, that it has three fides and 

three angles. We do not fpeak of equilateral, ifofceles, or fcalene 

ideas, nor of right angled, acute angled, or obtufe angled ideas. 

And if thefe attributes do not belong to ideas, it follows necefla- 

rily, that a triangle is not an idea. The fame reafoning may be 

applied to every other univerfal. 

Ideas are faid to have a real exlflence in the mind, at lead, 
while we think of them ; but univerfals have no real exiftence. 
When we afcribe exiftence to them, it is not an exiftence in time 
or place, but exiftence in fome individual fubje<5l ; and this exift- 
ence means no more but that they are truly attributes of fuch a 
fubjedl. Their exiftence is nothing but predicability, or the ca- 
pacity of being attributed to a fubje6t. The name of predicables, 
which was given them in ancient philofophy, is that which moft _ 
properly exprefles their nature. 

2. I think it muft be granted, in thtfecond place, that univerfals 
cannot be the objedls of imagination, when we take that word in 
its ftridl and proper fenfe. " I find, fays Berkeley, " I have a 
" faculty of imagining or reprefenting to myfelf the ideas of 
" thofe particular things I have perceived, and of varioufly com- 
" pounding and dividing them. I can imagine a man with two 
" heads, or the upper parts of a man joined to the body of a 
" horfe. "" I can imagine the hand, the eye, the nofe, each by it- 
" felf, abftradled or feparated from the reft of the body. But 
" then, whatever hand or eye I imagine, it muft have fome par- 
" ticular fliape or colour. Llkewife, the idea of a man that I 
" frame to myfelf muft be either of a white, or a black, or a tawny, 
" a ftraight or a crooked, a tall, or a low, or a middle-fized man." 

I believe every man will find in himfelf what this ingenious 
author found, that he cannot imagine a man without colour, or 
ftature, or ftiape. 

P p p Imagination^ 

482 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP. VI. Imagination, as we before obferved, properly fignlfies a con- 
ception of the appearance an objecSl would make to the eye, if 
adually feen. An univerfal is not an objed of any external fenfe, 
and therefore cannot be imagined ; but it may be diftinctly con- 
ceived. When Mr Pope fays, " The proper ftudy of mankind is 
" man," I conceive his meaning diftindly, though I neither ima- 
gine a black or a white, a crooked or a ftraight man. The di- 
ftindion between conception and imagination is real, though it 
be too often overlooked, and the words taken to be fynonimous. 
I can conceive a thing that is impoffible, but I cannot diftindly 
imagine a thing that is impoffible. I can conceive a propofition 
or a demonftration, but I cannot imagine either. I can conceive 
underftanding and will, virtue and vice, and other attributes of 
mind, but I cannot imagine them. In like manner, I can diftind- 
ly conceive vmiverfals, but I cannot imagine them. 

As to the manner how we conceive univerfals, I confefs my ig- 
norance. I know not how I hear, or fee, or remember, and as 
little do I know how I conceive things that have no exiftence. In 
all our original faculties, the fabric and manner of operation is, 
I apprehend, beyond our comprehenfion, and perhaps is perfedly 
underftood by him only who made them. 

But we ought not to deny a fadl of which we are confcious, 
though we know not how it is brought about. And I think we may 
be certain that univerfals are not conceived by means of images of 
them in our minds, becaufe there can be no image of an univerfal. 

3. It feems to me, that on this queftion Mr Locke and his 
two antagonifls have divided the truth between them. He faw 
very clearly, that the power of forming abftradl and general con- 
ceptions is one of the moft diftinguifliing powers of the human 
mind, and puts a fpecific difference between man and the brute 
creation. But he did not fee that this power is perfedly irrecon- 
cileable to his doiflrine concerning ideas. 



His opponents faw this inconfiftency ; but, inflead of rejedling chap, vi . 
the hypothefis of ideas, they explain away the power of abflrac- 
tion, and leave no fpecific diflindion between the human under- 
ftanding and that of brutes. 

4. Berkeley, in his reafoning againfl: abftradl general ideas, 
feems unwillingly or unwarily to grant all that is neceflary to fup- 
port abftradl and general conceptions. 

" A man, he fays, may confider a figure mei'ely as triangular, 
" without attending to the particular qualities of the angles, or 
*' relations of the fides. So far he may abftradl. But this will 
" never prove that he can frame an ab(lra(5l general inconfiflent 
" idea of a triangle." 

If a man may confider a figure merely as triangular, be muft 
have fome conception of this objedl of his confideration : For no 
man can confider a thing which he does not conceive. He has a 
conception, therefore, of a triangular figure, merely as fuch. I 
know no more that is meant by an abftradl general conception of 
a triangle. 

He that confiders a figure merely as triangular, mufi: under- 
ftand what is meant by the word triangular. If to the concep- 
tion he joins to this word, he adds any particular quality of 
angles or relation of fides, he mifunderftands it, and does not 
confider the figure merely as triangular. Whence I think it is 
evident, that he who confiders a figure merely as triangular muft 
have the conception of a triangle, ab(lra<5ling from any quality of 
angles or relation of fides. 

The Bllhop, in like manner, grants, " That we may confider x 
" Peter fo far forth as man, ok fo far forth as animal, without 
" framing the forementioned abftrad: idea, in as much as all that 
" is perceived is not confidered." It may here be obferved, that 

P p p 2 he 

484 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP. VI. he who confulcrs Peter Co far forth as man, or fo far forth as 
animal, muft conceive the meaning of thofe abftradl general 
words man and animal, and he who conceives the meaning of them, 
has an abftracfl general conception. 

From thefe conceflions, one would be apt to conclude that the 
Bilhop thinks that we can abftra6l, but that we cannot frame ab- 
flracfl ideas ; and in this I fhould agree with him. But I cannot recon- 
cile his conceflions with the general principle he lays down before. 
" To be plain," fays he, " I deny that I can abdradl one from ano« 
" ther, or conceive feparately thofe qualities which it is impoflible 
" fliould exift fo feparated." This appears to me inconfiftent with 
"^ the conceflions above mentioned, and inconfiftent with experience. 

If we can'confider a figure merely as triangular, without at- 
tending to the particular quality of the angles or relation of the 
fides, this, I think, is conceiving feparately things which cannot 
exift fo feparated : For furely a triangle cannot exifl without ,a 
particular quality of angles and relation of fides. And it is well 
known from experience, that a man may have a diftindl concep- 
tion of a triangle, without having any conception or knowledge 
of many of the properties without which a triangle cannot exift. 

Let us next confider the Bifliop's notion of generalifing. He 
does not abfolutely deny that there are general ideas, but only 
that there are abftradl general ideas. " An idea," he fays, " which, 
" confidered in itfelf, is particular, becomes general, by being 
" made to reprefent or ftand for all other particular ideas of the 
" fame fort. To make this plain by an example, Suppofe a Geo- 
" metrician is demonftrating the method of cutting a line in two 
" equal parts. He draws, for inftance, a black line of an inch 
" in length. This, which is in itfelf a particular line, is never- 
" thelefs, with regard to its fignification, general ; fince, as it is 
" there ufed, it reprefents all particular lines whatfoever; fo that 
" what is demonftrated of it, is demonftrated of all lines, or, in 

" other 


" other words, of a line in general. And as that particular line CHAP. VL 
" becomes general by being made a fign, i'o the name lincy which, 
" taken abfolutely, is particular, by being a fign, is made general." 

Here I obferve, that when a particular idea is made a fign to 
reprefent and fland for all of a fort, this fuppofes a dillindion of 
things into forts or fpecies. To be of a fort implies having thofe 
attributes which charadlerife the fort, and are common to all the 
individuals that belong to it. There cannot, therefore, be a fore 
without general attributes, nor can there be any conception of a 
fort without a conception of thofe general attributes which diftin- 
guifh it. The conception of a fort, therefore, is an abftraiSl ger 
neral conception. 

The particular idea cannot furely be made a fign of a thing of 
which we have no conception. I do not fay that you muft have 
an idea of the fort, but furely you ought to underftand or con- 
ceive what it means, when you make a particular idea a repre- 
fentative of it, otherwife your particular idea reprefents, you know 
not what. 

When I demonflrate any general property of a triangle, fuch 
as, that the three angles are equal to two right angles, I muft un- 
derftand or conceive diftincSlly what is common to all triangles* 
I muft diftinguifh the common attributes of all triangles from 
thofe wherein particular triangles may differ. And if I conceive 
diftincftly what is common to all triangles, without confounding 
it with what is not fo, tills is to form a general conception of a 
triangle. And without this, it is impoflible to know that the de- 
monftration extends to all triangles. 

The Bifhop takes particular notice of this argument, and makes 
this anfwer to it. " Though the idea I have in view, whilft I make 
" the demonftration, be, for inftance, that of an ifofceles redan- 
" gular triangle, whofe fides are of a determinate length, I may 

"^ neverthelels 

486 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP. VI. «» neverthelefs be certain that it extends to all other re<5tillnear 

" triangles, of what fort or bignefs foever ; and that becaufe nei- 

" ther the right angle, nor the equality or determinate length of 

" the fides, are at all concerned in the demonftration." 

But if he do not, in the idea he has in view, clearly diflinguifti 
what is common to all triangles from what is not, it would be im- 
pofTible to difcern whether fomething that is not common be con- 
cerned in the demonftration or not. In order, therefore, to per- 
ceive that the demonftration extends to all triangles, it is neceflary 
to have a diftin6l conception of what is common to all triangles, 
excluding from that conception all that is not common. And 
this is all I underftand by an abftradl general conception of a 

Berkeley catches an advantage to his fide of the queftion, from 
what Mr Locke expreffes (too ftrongly indeed) of the difficulty of 
framing abftradl general ideas, and the pains and fkill neceflary 
for that purpofe. From which the Bilhop infers, that a thing fo 
difficult cannot be neceflTary for communication by language, which 
is fo eafy and familiar to all forts of men. 

There may be fome abftradl and general conceptions that are 
difficult, or even beyond the reach of perfons of weak underftand- 
ing ; but there are innumerable, which are not beyond the reach 
of children. It is impoffible to learn language without acquiring 
general conceptions ; for there cannot be a fingle fentence without 
them. I believe the forming thefe, and being able to articulate the 
founds of language, make up the whole difficulty that children 
find in learning language at firft. 

But this difficulty, we fee, they are able to overcome fo early as 
not to remember the pains it coft them. They have the ftrongeft 
inducement to exert all their labour and flcill, in order to under- 
ftand, and to be underftood ; and they no doubt do fo. 



The labour of forming abflrad notions, is the labour of learn- CHAP, vi . 
ing to fpeak, and to underftand what is fpoken. As the words of 
every language, excepting a few proper names, are general words, 
the minds of children are furnifhed with general conceptions, in 
proportion as they learn the meaning of general words. I believe 
moft men have hardly any general notions but thofe which are ex- 
preffed by the general words they hear and ufe in converfation. 
The meaning of fome of thefe is learned by a definition, which 
at once conveys a diftintS and accurate general conception. The 
meaning of other general words we colledl, by a kind of induc- 
tion, from the way in which we fee them ufed on various occa- 
sions by thofe who underftand the language. Of thefe our con- 
ception is often lefs diftin(5l, and in different perfons is perhaps not 
perfe6lly the fame. 

" Is it not a hard thing, fays the Bifhop, that a couple of chil- 
" dren cannot prate together of their fugar-plumbs and rattles, 
*' and the reft of their little trinkets, till they have firft tacked to- 
*' gether numberlefs inconfiftencies, and fo formed in their minds 
" abftradl general ideas, and annexed them to every common name 
" they make ufe of." 

However hard a thing it may be, it is an evident truth, that a 
couple of children, even about their fugar-plumbs and their rattles, 
cannot prate fo as to underftand, and be underftood, until they 
have learned to conceive the meaning of many general words, and 
this, I think, is to have general conceptions. 

5. Having confidered the fentiments of Bifliop Berkeley on 
this fubjedl, let us next attend to thofe of Mr Hume, as they are 
exprefTed, part i. fe6l. 7. Treatife of Human Nature. He agrees 
perfedlly with the Biftiop, " That all general ideas are nothing 
" but particular ones annexed to a certain term, which gives them 
" a more extenfive fignlfication, and makes them recal upon occa- 
*' fion other individuals which are fimilar to them. A particular 

" idea 

4S8 E S S A Y V. 

CHAP. VL ct j^gj^ becomes general, by being annexed to a general term ; that 

" is, to a term, which, from a cuftomary conjundion, has a re- 

" lation to many other particular ideas, and readily recals them in 

" the imagination. Abflra<5l ideas are therefore in themfelves in- 

" dividual, however they may become general in their reprefenta- 

*' tion. The image in the mind is only that of a particular ob- 
" jed, though the application of it in our reafoning be the fame 

" as if it was univerfal." 

Although Mr Hume looks upon this to be one of the greatefl; 
and mod: valuable difcoveries that has been made of late years in 
the republic of letters, it appears to be no other than the opinion 
of the Nominahfts, about which fo much difput^ was held from 
the beginning of the twelfth century down to the reformation, and 
- which was afterwards fupported by Mr Hobbes. I Ihall briefly 
confider the arguments, by which Mr Hume hopes to have put it 
beyond all doubt and controverfy. 

Firjl^ He endeavours to prove, by three arguments, that it is 
utterly impoftible to conceive any quantity or quality, without 
forming a precife notion of its degrees. 

This is indeed a great undertaking ; but if he could prove it, ic 
is not fufficient for his purpofe ; for two reafons. 

F'trjl^ Becaufe there are many attributes of tilings, befides quan- 
tity and quality ; and it is incumbent upon him to prove, that it 
is impoffible to conceive any attribute, without forming a precife 
notion of its degree. Each of the ten categories of Aristotle 
is a genus, and may be an attribute : And if he Ihould prove of 
two of them, to wit, quantity and quality, that there can be no 
general conception of them j there remain eight behind, of which 
this muft be proved. 



The other reafon. is, becaufe, though it were impoffible to con- chap. vr. 
celve any quantity or quality, without forming a precife notion 
of its degree, it does not follow that it is impoffible to have a ge- 
neral conception even of quantity and quality. The conception 
of a pound troy is the conception of a quantity, and of the pre- 
cife degree of that qviantity ; but it is an abftradl general concep- 
tion notwithftatiding, becaufe it may be the attribute of many in- 
dividual bodies, and of many kinds of bodies. He ought there- 
fore to have proved, that we cannot conceive quantity or quality, 
or any other attribute, without joining it infeparably to fome in- 
dividual lubjed. 

This remains to be. proved, which will be found no eafy matter. 
For inftance, I conceive what is meant by a Japanefe as diftiadly 
as what is meant by an Englilhman or a Frenchman. It is true, 
a Japanefe is nddier quantity nor quality, but it is an attribute 
common to fevery ijadividual df a populous nation. I never faw 
an individual of that nation, and, if I can truft my confcioufnefs, 
the general term docs not lead me to imagine one individual of the 
fort as a reprefentative of all others. 


Though Mr HUi«^V- therefore, undertakes much, yet, if he- 
could prove all he undertakes to prove, it would by no means be 
faflScient to (hew that we have no abftrad general conceptions. 

Faffing thi^, let us attend to his arguments for proving this ex- 
traordinary portion, that it is impoffible to conceive any quantity 
or quality, without forming a precife notion of its degree. 

The firft argument is, that it is impoffible to diftinguiffi things 
that are not a(5lually feparable. " The precife length of a line is 
" not different or diftinguiffiable from the line." 

I have before endeavoured to fliew, that things infeparable in 

Qjq q their 

49° ESSAY V. 

CHAP. VL their nature may be dlftinguiflied in our conception. And we 

^ I ^ ■■■■■■ 

need go no farther to be convinced of this, than the inftance here 
brought to prove the contrary. The precife length of a Une, he 
fays, is not diflinguifhable from the hne. When I fay, this is a 
I'tne^ I fay and mean one thing. When I fay it is a line of three 
inches^ I fay and mean another thing. If this be not to diftinguifh 
the precife length of the line from the line, I know not what it is 
to diftinguifh. 

Second argument. " Every obje<5l of fenfe, that is, every im- 
" prefhon, is an individual, having its determinate degrees of 
*' quantity and quality : But whatever is true of the impreffion is 
" true of the idea, as they differ in nothing but their ftrength and 


, The conclufion in this argument is indeed juftly drawn from 

the premifes. If it be true that ideas differ in nothing from ob- 
je6ls of fenfe but in ftrength and vivacity, as it muft be granted 
that all the objedls of fenfe are individuals, it will certainly follow 
that all ideas are individuals. Granting therefore the juftnefs of 
this conclufion, I beg leave to draw two other conclufions from the 
fame premifes, which will follow no lefs neceffarily. 

ivVy?, If ideas differ from the objects of fenfe only in ftrength 
and vivacity, it will follow, that the idea of a lion is a lion of lefs 
ftrength and vivacity. And hence may arife a very important que- 
ftion. Whether the idea of a lion may not tear in pieces, and de- 
vour the ideas of fheep, oxen, and horfes, and even of men, wo- 
men, and children ? 

Secondly, If ideas differ only in ftrength and vivacity from the 
objedls of fenfe, it will follow, that objedls, merely conceived, are 
not ideas ; for fuch objeds differ from the objeds of fenfe in re- 
fpeds of a very different nature from ftrength and vivacity. Every 



objedl of fenfe mufl have a real exiftence, and time and place : But CHAP, vi . 
things merely conceived may neither have exiftence, nor time nor 
place ; and therefore, though there fhould be no abftratfl ideas, it 
does not follow, that things abftradl and general may not be 

The third argument is this : " It is a principle generally received 
" in philofophy, that every thing in nature is individual; and that 
" it is utterly abfurd to fuppole a triangle really exiftent, which 
" has no precife proportion of fides and angles. If this, therefore, 
" be abfurd in fad and reality, it muft be abfurd in idea, fince 
" nothing of which we can form a clear and diftindl idea is abfurd 
" or impoflible." 

I acknowledge it to be impofliblcjj that a triangle fhould really 
exifl which has no precife proportion of fides and angles; and imr 
pofTible that any being fhould exift which is not an individual be- 
ing ; for, I think, a being and an individual being mean the fame 
thing : But that there can be no attributes common to many indi- 
viduals, I do not acknowledge. Thus, to many figures that really 
exift, it may be common that they are triangles ; and to many bo- 
dies that exift, it may be common that they are fluid. Triangle 
and fluid are not beings, they are attributes of beings. 

As to the principle here afTumed, that nothing of which we can 
form a clear and diftin(5l idea is abfurd or impoflible, I refer to- 
what was faid upon it, chap. 3. EfTay 4. It is evident, that in every 
mathematical demonftration, ad abfurdum, of which kind almoft 
one half of mathematics confifts, we are required to fuppofe, and. 
confequently to conceive a thing that is impoflible. From that fup- 
pofition we reafon, until we come to a conclufion that is not only 
impoffible but abfurd. From this we infer, that the propofition; 
fuppofed at firft is impoflible, and therefore that its contradidory 
is true. 

Qjq q 2 As 




CHAP. VI. /^s this is the nature of all demonflrations, ad abfurdum, it is evi- 
dent, (I do not fay that we can have a clear and idea,) but 
that we can clearly and diftindlly conceive things impofllble. 

The reft of Mr Hume's difcourfe upon this fubjedl is employed 
in explaining how an individual idea, annexed to a general term, 
may ferve all the purpofes in reafoning, which have been afcribed 
to abftra(5l general ideas. 

" When we have found a refemblance among feveral objeds 
" that often occur to us, we apply the fame name to all of them, 
" whatever differences we may obferve in the degrees of their 
" quantity and quality, and whatever other differences may ap- 
" pear among them. After we have acquired a cuftom of this 
•• kind, the hearing of that name revives the idea of one of thefe 
" obje(5ls, and makes the imagination conceive it, with all its cir- 
" cumftances and proportions." But along with this idea, there is 
a readinefs to furvey any other of the individuals to which the 
name belongs, and to obferve, that no conclufion be formed con- 
trary to any of them. If any fuch conclufion is formed, thofe in- 
dividual ideas which contradidl it, immediately crowd in upon us, 
and make us perceive the falfehood of the propofition. If tJie mind 
fuggeft not always thefe ideas upon occafion, it proceeds from fonje 
lmperfe(5^ion in its faculties ; and fuch a one as is often the fource 
of falfe reafoning and fophiitry. 

This is in fubftance the way in which he accounts for what he 
calls " the foregoing paradox, that fome ideas are particular in 
their nature, but general in their reprefentation." Upon this ac- 
count I fhall make fome remarks. 

I. He allows that we find a refemblance among feveral objedls, 
and fuch a refemblance as leads us to apply the fame name to all 
of them. This conceffion is fufiicient to Ihew that we have general 



conceptions. There can be no refemblance in objeds that have no ^^f^* 
common attribute ; and if there be attributes belonging in com- 
mon to feveral objecfts, and in man a faculty to obferve and con- 
ceive thefe, and to give names to them, this is to have general 

I believe indeed we may have an indiftindl perception of refem- 
blance, without knowing wherein it lies. Thus, I may fee a re- 
femblance between one face and another, when I cannot diftindly 
fay in what feature they refemble : But by analyfing the two faces, 
and comparing feature with feature, I may form a diftindl notion 
of that which is common to both. A painter, being accuftomed 
to an analyfis of this kind, would have formed a diftincfl notion of 
this refemblance at firft fight ; to another man it may require fome 

There is therefore an indiftincfl notion of refemblance when we 
compare the obje<fts only in grofs ; and this I believe brute animals 
may have. There is alfo a diftinil notion of refemblance, when 
we analyfe the objedts into their different attributes, and perceive 
them to agree in fome, while they differ in others. It is in this 
cafe only that we give a name to the attributes wherein they agree, 
which muftlDe a common name, becaufe the thing fignified by it 
is common. Thus, when I compare cubes of different matter, I 
perceive them to have this attribute in common, that they are com- 
prehended under fix equal fquares ; and this attribute only, is fig- 
nified by applying the name of cube to them all. When I compare 
clean linen with fnow, I perceive them to agree in colour ; and 
when 1 apply the name of white to both, this name fignifies nei- 
ther fnow nor clean linen, but the attribute which is common 
to both. 

2. The author fays, that when we have found a refemblance 
among feveral objedls, we apply the fame name to all of them. 




CHAP. VI. ff mufl here be obferved, that there are two kinds of names which 
the author feems to confound, though they are very different in 
nature, and in the power they have in language. There are proper 
. names, and there are common names or appellatives. The firfl: are 
the names of individuals. The fame proper name is never applied 
to feveral individuals on account of their fimilitude, becaufe the 
Tcry intention of a proper name is to diftinguifh one individual 
from all others ; and hence it is a maxim in grammar, that proper 
names have no plural number. A proper name fignifies nothing 
but the individual whofe name it is ; and when we apply it to 
the individual, we neither aiErm nor deny any thing concerning 

A common name or appellative is not the name of any indivi- 
dual, but a general term, fignifying fomething that is or may be 
common to feveral individuals. Common names therefore fignify. 
common attributes. Thus, when I apply the name of fon or bro- 
ther to feveral perfons, this fignifies and affirms that this attribute 
is common to all of them.. 

From this it is evident, that the applying the fame name to fe* 
veral individuals, on account of their refemblance, can, in confift,- 
ence with grammar and common fenfe, mean nothing elfe than 
the exprefllng by a general term fomething that is common to thofe 
individuals, and which therefore may be truly affirmed of them 

3. The author fays, " It is certain that we form the idea of in- 
" dividuals, whenever we ufe any general term. The word raifes 
" up an individual idea, and makes the imagination conceive it^ 
** with all its particular circumftances and proportions." 

This fadV he takes a great deal of pains to account for, from the 
efie<^ of cuftom. 



But the. fadl fhould be afcertalned before we take pains to ac- CHAP. VL 
count for it. I can fee no reafon to believe the facft ; and I think 
a farmer can talk of his fheep, and his black cattle, without con- 
ceiving, in his imagination one individual, with all its circumftances 
and proportions. If this be true, the whole of his theory of ge- 
neral ideas falls to the ground. To me it appears, that when a 
general term is well underftood, it is only by accident if it fug- 
ged fome individual of the kind; but this effedt is by no means 

I underftand perfedlly what Mathematicians call a line of the 
fifth order ; yet I never conceived in my imagination any one of 
the kind in all its circumftances and proportions. Sir Isaac 
Newton firft formed a diftin<5l general conception of lines of the 
third order ; and afterwards, by great labour and deep penetration, 
found out and defcribed the particular fpecies comprehended under 
that general term. According to Mr Hume's theory, he muft firft 
have been acquainted with the particulars, and then have learned 
by cuftom to apply one general name to all of them. 

The author obferves, " That the idea of an equilateral triangle 
" of an inch perpendicular, may ferve us in talking of a figure, a 
" redilinear figure, a regular figure, a triangle, and an equilateral 
" triangle." 

I anfwer. The man that ufes thefe general terms, either under- 
ftands their meaning, or he does not. If he does not underftand 
their meaning, all his talk about them will be found only without 
fenfe, and the particular idea mentioned cannot enable him to 
fpeak of them with underftanding. If he underftands the meaning 
of the general terms, he will find no ufe for the particular idea. 

4. He tells us gravely, " That in a globe of white marble the 
" figure and the colour are undiftinguilhable, and are in efFedl the 

« fame." 

496 E S S A Y V. 

CHA P. VI. «< fame." How foolifli have mankind been to give different names, 
in all ages and in all languages, to things undiftinguifhable, and 
in effeft the fame ? Henceforth, in all books of fcience and of en- 
tertainment, we may fubftitute figure for colour, and colour for 
figure. By this we fhall make numberlefs curious difcoveries, 
without danger of error. 



CHA?. I. 
^^ . ' 




Of yudgment in general. 

JUDGING is an operation of the mind fo familiar to every 
man who hath underflanding, and its name is fo common and 
fo well underftood, that it needs no definition. 

As it is impoflible by a definition to give a notion of colour to 
a liian who never faw colours ; fo it is impoflible by any definition 
to give a diftindl notion of judgment to a man who has not often 
judged, and who is not capable of refledling attentively upon this 
a<5l of his mind. The beft ufe of a definition is to prompt him to 
that refledion ; and without it the beft definition will be apt to 
miflead him. 

The definition commonly given of judgment, by the more an- 
cient writers in logic, was, that it is an a6l of the mind, whereby 
one thing is affirmed or denied of another. I believe this is as 
good a definition of it as can be given. Why I prefer it to fome 
later definitions, will afterwards appear. Without pretending to 
give any other, I fhall make two remarks upon it, and then offer 
fome general obfervations on this fubjed. 

R r r s I. It 

jy,. . - : 

498 E S S A Y VI. 


CHAP.)I. I. It is true, that it is by affirmation or denial that we exprefs 

our judgments ; but there may be judgment which is not exprefs- 
ed. It is a folitary ad of the mind, and the exprefTion of it by 
affirmation or denial is not at all elTential to it. It may be tacit, 
and not expreffed. Nay, it is well known that men may judge 
contrary to what they affirm or deny ; the definition therefore mud 
be underftood of mental affirmation or denial, which indeed is 
only another name for judgment. 

2. Affirmation and denial is very often the expreffion of tefti- 
mony, which is a different a(fl of the mind, and ought to be di- 
flinguiflied from judgment. 

A judge afks of a ivitnefs what he knows of fuch a matter to 
which he was an eye or ear witnefs. He anfwers, by affirming or 
denying fomething. But his anfwer does not exprefs his judgment ; 
it is his teftimony. Again, I afk a man his opinion in a matter 
of fcience or of criticifm. His anfwer is not teftimony ; it is the 
expreffion of his judgment. 

Teftimony is a focial adl, and it is effential to it to be exprefled 
by words or figns. A tacit teftimony is a contradidlion : But there 
is no contradi«5lion in a tacit judgment; it is complete without be- 
ing expreffed. 

In teftimony a man pledges his veracity for what he affirms ; fo 
that a falfe teftimony is a lie : But a wrong judgment is not a lie; 
it is only an error. 

I believe, in all languages teftimony and judgment are expreffed 
by the fame form of fpeech. A propoficion affirmative or nega- 
tive, with a verb in what is called the indicative mood, expreffes 
both. To diftinguifti them by the form of fpeech, it would be 
neceffary that verbs ftiould have two indicative moods, one for tefti- 
mony, and another to exprefs judgment. I know not that this is 



found in. any language. And the reafon is, (not furcly that the ^CHAP. I . 
vulgar cannot diftinguifh the two, for every man knows the dif- 
ference between a lie and an error of judgment), but that, fromi 
the matter and circumftances, we can eafily fee whether a man in- 
tends to give his teftimony, or barely to exprefs his judgment. 

Although men muft have judged in many cafes before tribunals 
of juftice were ere<5led, yet it is very probable that there were tri- 
bunals before men began to fpeculate about judgment, and that 
the word may be borrowed from the pradlice of tribunals. As a 
judge, after taking the proper evidence, paffes fentence in a caufe, 
and that fentence is called his judgment; fo the mind, with regard 
to whatever is true or falle, paffes fentence, or determines accord- 
ing to the evidence that appears. Some kinds of evidence leave no 
room for doubt. Sentence is paffed immediately, without feeking 
or hearing any contrary evidence, becaufe the thing is certain and 
notorious. In other cafes, there is room for weighing evidence on 
both fides before fentence is paffed. The analogy between a tri- 
bunal of j